JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
On March 19, the Department of State advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In response to the global health advisory, the closing of international borders and the cancellations of international flights, Defense Language Institute English Language Center personnel on outside contiguous United States mobile training teams, or OCONUS MTTs, repatriated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, along with the State Department, lifted the global level 4 health advisory Aug. 6 and returned to a country-specific level advisory system.
During this pause, the DLIELC remained committed to assisting security cooperation partners to build their English language capacity through the fulfillment of American Language Course book orders, English language labs, and providing training to international military students at the resident campus and at three Language Training Detachment sites in Puerto Rico, the United Arab Emirates and Japan.
In line with the 2017 National Security Strategy to maintain a forward presence and with the 2018 National Defense Strategy to deepen interoperability, the DLIELC’s 637th International Support Squadron worked closely with U.S. security cooperation partners to ascertain local travel restrictions and to ensure health and safety protocols of MTT sites.
Saudi Arabia MTTs to Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam are set to depart later this year and continue into the spring. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command assignments to Komaki, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand are also moving ahead and MTTs will begin to deploy this fall. English language training teams to the Indo-Pacific region would support the networked security architecture and the greater pivot to Asia.
Aside from the seven-month COVID-19 pause, the MTT to Komaki has been a recurring assignment providing English language training support to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force student pilots. The training mission aims to build the conversational skills of the Japanese pilots and prepare them for the Oral Proficiency Interview, or OPI, listening and speaking assessment. Passing OPI scores qualify Japanese pilots to participate in red flag training exercises for joint readiness and interoperability.
The last DLIELC MTT to Thailand was in 2013, prior to the 2014 Thai coup d'état. The 2017 National Security Strategy stresses the importance of re-energizing the U.S. alliance with Thailand.
The upcoming MTT to Bangkok would reinvigorate this alliance by training host nation ELT managers and instructional staff on the use of American Language Course materials. The Bangkok MTT will provide in-country workshops at the Royal Thai Armed Forces, or RTAF, service language institutes and the RTAF service language academies.
By training the Thai trainers, DLIELC becomes a key security cooperation driver in meeting the objective of encouraging coalition partners to share burdens under a strong defense network.