ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft and KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft are capable of getting anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
But when tragedy strikes that demands immediate attention the United States military has allies that also have C-17 and KC-135 aircrews, many of which are trained at Altus Air Force Base.
Many of Altus AFB international military students come from United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom and members from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“The students that come here typically become instructors for their own countries back home,” said John Carter, 97th Training Squadron international military student officer. “Most countries continue to send their initial qualification students here even if they have instructors back home because they want to have the standardized training they get here at Altus.”
Altus AFB trains an average of 110 international students each year.
“It’s a unique opportunity to see how other nations teach loadmasters,” said Royal Canadian air force Sgt. David Burrill, C-17 loadmaster trainee. “We have different styles and methods of teaching so coming down here there’s a lot more state of the art equipment and it’s a very well thought out program with very methodical training.”
Despite the differences of where students call home the training they receive is no different than their American counterparts.
“Here in Altus, the instructor teaches us at the same levels as if we were in the U.S. Air Force,” said UAE air force Capt. Abdulla Almehrezi, C-17 instructor pilot trainee. “I feel the standard is the same, and I don’t feel any different than U.S. Airmen.”
Though the training is the same there are challenges students and instructors must overcome.
“I think the biggest challenge is the language issue but before we come here we have an English course at Lackland Air Force Base,” said Almehrezi.
With years of experience, instructors like Randall Nordhangen, 97th Training Squadron C-17 pilot instructor, have found ways to overcome these challenges.
“You try to find things about people so you can build a repertoire, it makes the learning experience better,” said Nordhangen. “It helps their comfort level so if I use a term that they don’t understand they say ‘Wait a minute, I don’t understand’ and I can explain it differently.”
With the same training as their American counterparts and with experience overcoming language barriers, Altus AFB international students leave here prepared for real-world situations.
“We can’t be everywhere all at once so having our partners being able to shoulder the load around the world helps,” said Carter. “If you watch any news these days where a natural disaster or where international aid is going to you’ll see C-17s from a number of countries out there on the ramp dropping off supplies.”
Altus AFB plans to continue training international students and improving joint nation missions with uniformed knowledge and operations of the C-17 and KC-135.