• Internationals learn about local government

  • The CGSOC welcome 119 international students.

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Leavenworth Mayor Nancy Bauder welcomed 119 international students from the incoming Command and General Staff Officer Course with an official proclamation of July 18 as “International Military Students’ Honorary Citizens Day” at Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth.
    The CGSOC international students, representing 91 countries, received honorary citizen certificates from Bauder.
    Mike Brettmann, Field Studies Program manager for the International Military Student Division at the Command and General Staff College, said the further purpose of the event was to provide the international officers a practical understanding of fundamental facets of American life. He said the informational content of the event also supported course requirements.
    “This is part of the Department of Defense Field Studies Program,” Brettmann said. “Congress has mandated that whenever foreign military members are here for such purposes as to study, they also learn about our country in other than a military context.”
    Brettmann said most of the officers live with their families on Fort Leavenworth, but 35-40 percent reside off post in the Leavenworth-Lansing area.
    “This event gives great context to the officers,” Brettmann said.
    Representatives from the Leavenworth school board, school administration and public library, along with city and county government officials, presented information.
    Leavenworth Superintendent of Schools Mike Roth said the district makes a deliberate effort to embrace the military and diversity. He said the district website provides detailed information regarding all aspects of the individual schools, the school board and administration.
    “The main hallway at Leavenworth High School is named ‘Main Street’ and has flags displayed representing the countries of our currently enrolled international students,” Roth said. “It is one of the ways we ensure all of our students understand they are welcome.”
    Leavenworth City Manager Paul Kramer provided insights to U.S. institutions of democratic governance, including public administration at the local level. He discussed the demographics of the city and gave the international officers an overview of Leavenworth County.
    “The City of Leavenworth is the ‘First City of Kansas’ because it was the first city incorporated in the state in 1854,” Kramer said. “Leavenworth has 36,150 people and covers 22 square miles. The city’s largest employers include Fort Leavenworth, the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center, Hallmark and our Unified School District.”
    The city fire chief, along with city and county law enforcement officials, gave overviews of information unique to the services each provides.
    Brettmann said international officers get exposure to 10 different areas. He said one of them is U.S. government.
    “We give them a local government day, a state government day and next spring we will go to Washington, D.C., so they can observe our federal government in action,” Brettmann said. “The course is one year and starts each June.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Maj. Rene Berendsen of the Netherlands is among the class of international officers currently attending CGSC. He said his wife and two daughters are with him and they live on post.
    “Our children will attend Patton Junior High School,” Berendsen said. “We have had great support from our sponsors, we have been to several places around the area and enjoy the friendly cultural climate.”
    Berendsen said it was his first time traveling to the Kansas City area and he said he had expected to see many tall buildings.
    “First, it’s a great opportunity for me to be in America and follow an American course,” Berendsen said. “Second, it’s great to be here because there are a lot of international student officers. We are talking about cultural differences.”
    Berendsen said the experience provides an opportunity to learn for his family as well. He said his wife participates in the spouses club and the entire family enjoys meeting new people.
    “Everybody is very friendly and polite to us. We are feeling very comfortable here because of how helpful people on the fort and in the city have been to us,” Berendsen said. “This is our first time in America and we look forward to more experiences.”
    Brettmann said the primary goal of the Field Studies Program is to ensure that international students return to their homelands with an understanding of the responsibilities of governments, militaries and citizens to protect, preserve and respect the rights of every individual.
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