Dominican Cadets Train at WHINSEC
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo July 18, 2017A team of 10 outstanding students and one escort officer from the Dominican Air Force (FARD, per its Spanish acronym), completed the “Cadet Leadership Development Course” offered by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) to prepare for leadership positions. The cadets graduated on June 29th after completing 190 hours of instruction over five weeks at Fort Benning, Georgia. The students were taught by 19 highly qualified noncommissioned officer instructors from Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, the United States, and Panama, who had been certified by the U.S. Army and WHINSEC. Nine cadets from Peru’s Chorrillos Military Academy, 110 cadets and second lieutenants from Colombia’s General José María Córdoba Military Academy, and five U.S. Army cadets from universities across the United States also attended the training. “This course differentiated itself from the rest because it was 40 percent female , the highest percentage of women yet seen at WHINSEC. The training is nationally accredited in the United States, and it has magnified the importance of women as future leaders in this hemisphere’s security forces,” U.S. Army Captain Joseph Macchiarella told Diálogo. He is chief of the Leadership Division in the School of Leadership and Tactics at WHINSEC. Risk taking The cadets and second lieutenants, chosen from among the best in their fields in their home countries, were trained on a set of skills. These included basic notions of leadership in the U.S. Army, goal setting, time management, physical and mental conditioning, teamwork, waterborne combat survival tests, and obstacle courses. WHINSEC instructors also provided training on land navigation, orientation with a compass, weapons familiarization, a live fire simulator, and precision firing with a rifle. The course placed a special emphasis on the international human rights law program and the application of democratic values, as defined by the Organization of American States. “The Cadet Leadership Development Course is extremely important, as we can influence the future leaders of our nations here. Cultural change and a global focus start at this level, before they graduate from their respective military academies,” Capt. Macchiarella indicated. To reinforce their training, cadets and second lieutenants did a two-day field training exercise at the end of the course. During the exercise, they practiced everything from training on basic maneuvers on the ground, to map reading skills, to the medical knowledge they had acquired, and even how to use the weapons of a U.S. Army combat unit. “Through the development of cognitive, physical, leadership, teamwork, decision-making, and risk-taking abilities, the cadets are ready to lead troops most effectively in a multicultural environment,” Dominican Air Force Colonel Rubén Agustín told Diálogo. Col. Agustín, a paratrooper, is the director of the General de Brigada Piloto Frank Andrés Miranda Academy, named in honor of a FARD pilot. “Also, with what they have learned about human rights and democracy, they will act appropriately, sticking to the rules of engagement,” he stressed. A worthwhile experience Several FARD cadets who took the course shared with Diálogo what they had learned. “This course represents a worthwhile experience, considering that each of us has learned how the U.S. Army operates, in addition to receiving leadership training,” said Cadet Rafael Lora. “What caught my attention the most was the relationship that exists between the officers and noncommissioned officers in the U.S. Army. The way that superiors treat subordinates, and vice versa, is with mutual respect and engagement, giving more weight to knowledge and experience than to rank,” Cadet Deysi Concepción added. “However, our next objective is to implement the knowledge we have acquired about U.S. Army doctrine within our institution,” Cadet Pedro López said. The Cadet Leadership Development Course is an element of the ongoing military cooperation between the United States and the Dominican Republic. These partner nations have historically joined forces to fight against transnational organized crime networks, mainly, drug trafficking. “These training programs have allowed us to broaden the perspective of our Dominican Air Force personnel, and to make them aware of the new threats that they must face, giving them a shared strategic view of the realities that this hemisphere faces in terms of defense and security,” Colonel Néstor Iván Acosta, the director of FARD’s Foreign Liaison Services, told Diálogo. “The new generation of leaders in this hemisphere will face many situations that will demand mental agility, physical ability, critical thinking skills, and the ability to adapt quickly and make ethical decisions,” Capt. Macchiarella added. Steps for success Founded in 2001, WHINSEC has offered training to students from every nation in the Western Hemisphere for over a decade. Through its educational programs, the institute receives more than 1,500 members of military, police, and civilian forces from Canada to Chile, all the countries in the Organization of American States. “The next steps for the success of this professionalization program, for the students who attend WHINSEC, is that we don’t want only army cadets, but cadets from the navy and air force too,” Capt. Macchiarella emphasized. “Having members of the Dominican Air Force was extremely interesting and an enriching learning experience for the cadets.” “Our main challenge now is to keep our learning current,” added FARD Cadet José Alejandro de la Cruz, who attended the course. “At the same time, [that will be] a way for us to feel more secure about performing our missions and duties,” he concluded.