By Staff Sgt. Lauren Silverthorne
/ Published May 20, 2021
International Officer School Commandant and Air University International Affairs Director Col. Alex Ganster presents a certificate of appreciation to Maj. Amanda LaMonica at Husband Auditorium, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, May 18, 2021. LaMonica and several other volunteers were recognized during the annual Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors Appreciation event for the work they’ve done in helping international officers and their families acclimate to the local area and the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cassandra Cornwell)
Air Command and Staff College International Officer Class President, Wing Commander Mahbub Ur Rahman from Bangladesh speaks to Alabama Goodwill Ambassador Appreciation event attendees at Husband Auditorium, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 18, 2021. The event was held to recognize local civilian and military sponsors of international students and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cassandra Cornwell)
Air University’s International Officer School hosted its 44th annual Alabama Goodwill Ambassador Appreciation event May 18, 2021 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The celebration was modified to a smaller gathering this year to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.
The event honored distinguished volunteers who have exceeded expectations in their roles as sponsors, English teachers and family program coordinators for international officers attending AU.
This year, AU hosted 101 international students and 212 of their family members from 91 different countries.
The AGA program aims to positively shape international students’ views of the U.S. by inviting them to participate in experiences that are uniquely American. Volunteer sponsors provide IOS students and family members with opportunities to become familiar with different aspects of living in America, from using U.S. dollars and driving safety, to what their children will experience in U.S. schools and more.
Ultimately, the goal is to help international officers and their families feel welcome, and create an ongoing, positive impression of the U.S. and its citizens.
Col. Alex Ganster, Air University International Affairs director, emphasized the importance of this program and the volunteers who make it possible during his address.
“This is 44 years that we’ve been recognizing the amazing work that each and every one of you do, volunteering and serving, not only our international partners, but really the United States as well. There is a direct connection between what we do here as partner nations and the security strategy for each of our countries,” said Ganster.
Over the years, the AGA program has brought together thousands of sponsors from the local area with international officers attending AU, to assist with their acclimation to the River Region.
Air Command and Staff College international officer class president, Wing Commander Mahbub Ur Rahman from the Bangladesh Air Force expressed gratitude for the volunteers’ support during his time as an AU student.
“There were several programs coordinated by the IOS dependent and sponsorship department throughout the year and these programs have made our journey smoother,” said Ur Rahman. “We would like to say, ‘dhonnobad, JazakAllah and merci’ (thank you).”
He continued, “This (students’ success) was only possible due to relentless effort from the IOS and the Alabama Goodwill Ambassadors.”
Volunteers have said that the opportunity to interact with these individuals from around the world, roughly 10% of whom have gone on to become the chief of staff equivalent or higher in their country’s air force, has provided them with a truly unique experience.
Maj. Amanda LaMonica, an Officer Training School instructor, volunteered to teach beginner English to the spouses of the international students.
“Beyond the English and cultural skills we practice, this program builds connections and networks that grow relationships between people and countries,” said LaMonica. “Volunteering gave me the chance to learn alongside ladies from all over the world, sharing our cultures, families, and friendship.”
She went on to say, “I could not be more proud of the ladies who entered the program with open hearts and minds; I truly feel like they taught me as much if not more than I taught them!”
Both civilians and military members can participate in the AGA program. Learn more about becoming a volunteer here.