“When I was selected by the AFP deliberation board, they nominated me to JUSMAG for an English language comprehension exam and interview,” Acorda explained. “After finishing the exams and an interview by the JUSMAG officer, they approved and accepted my papers for IMET.”
The Philippines are the second-largest participant in the IMET program in Southeast Asia. Acorda’s experience is generally representative of how most IMET students are accepted to the program.
The potential of IMET and the payoff from Department of State funding and the administrative efforts of DSCA’s Business Operations and Program Directorates becomes clearer when IMET graduates are prompted to share their experiences in the program.
The process must begin well in advance of a prospective student’s arrival in the U.S. Often, the local SCO may initiate vetting of both a primary and alternate candidate. The process is selective enough that adequate time (usually two years) must be allotted to allow the vetting of a substitute student in the event the primary nominee is rejected.
IMET candidates are typically screened by a variety of officials, including the U.S. Embassy human rights officer, the regional security officer, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and consular section, among others, for evidence of drug trafficking, corruption, criminal conduct, or other activities inconsistent with U.S. policy goals. The information gathered is included with other documents related to the individual and maintained in SCO records for a decade.
Candidate health is an issue, and prospective students undergo pre-departure medical examinations (conducted within three months preceding the departure of the student) and immunizations before traveling to the U.S. Some may forgo medical screening if joining IMET from a Medical Fast Track country.
Like many Philippine officers, Acorda is bilingual and spoke English prior to his selection for IMET. The application process was reasonably straightforward and the colonel traveled to the U.S. to attend courses six months after applying.
However, some IMET students require English language training (ELT) prior to attending courses, virtually all of which are conducted solely in English. IMET candidates in need of ELT enter the Defense English Language Program (DELP) which is run by the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC), under the command of U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas.
Students’ travel to and from the U.S. is typically covered by IMET funds, which include limited travel allowances. Prescribed living allowances for IMET students are intended to cover the average cost differential for the student living away from his/her home station. The minimum stay for eligible IMET students is five weeks, but most are in the U.S. for a year.
Acorda now attends the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Approximately 58 percent of the Eisenhower School’s student body is composed of military representatives from the U.S. land, sea and air services, 32 percent from the Departments of Defense and State and other federal agencies. Eight percent of the student body is international military officers like Acorda.
The Eisenhower School’s mission is to prepare military and civilian students for strategic leadership roles and success in developing national security strategy. It is an effective teacher of the skills senior officers, such as Acorda, require to shape their respective militaries and national strategies.
“The lessons I’m learning are in strategic leadership, strategic thinking, jointness, and interpersonal relation skills,” Acorda related. They’ll pay dividends as the Philippines increasingly partners with the U.S. in the Pacific.
“I believe I can work more effectively with U.S. military forces in my region,” the colonel said. He said the friends and professional relationships he’s developing will prove particularly useful in years to come.