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Cultural Ambassador Volunteer Becomes DRMI Student

Article and Photos by Kate Lamar

Posted April  14, 2010

Maj. Chike Williams reviews DRMI course materialsArmy Maj. Chike Williams comes from a strong military family, with both of his parents and his stepmother having served in the Army. Chike, amidst friendly jabbing from his enlisted family members, was the first to enter the Army as an officer. This was to be become just one of many firsts for Williams during his military career.

Most recently, Williams became the first U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer (FAO) to attend the Defense Resources Management Institute’s (DRMI) International Defense Management Course (IDMC) held at NPS. The course began in February and runs through April. This 11-week program is designed to help international military officers and civilian officials learn to balance security needs and defense strategies within budgetary and staffing constraints.

Williams, a Spanish and Portuguese language student at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), found himself with a time gap between the end of his Spanish course and the beginning of the Portuguese class.

“I called over to DRMI to ask about the possibility of taking a course with them, and it turned out that a course was starting the same week I was finishing up,” Williams said. “The timing was perfect. I had an 11-week gap, and they had an 11-week course.”

The International Defense Management Course that Chike is now attending is designed to help defense leaders from U.S. partner countries with strategic planning and decision making for resources, manpower and programming. 

Williams’ background in infantry had familiarized him to resources management, but not on the level covered at DRMI.

“I had been exposed to these things on a very tactical and operational level, but this course focuses on the strategic level,” said Williams. “It has really built my awareness across the international community about how different countries are managing their defense resources. The U.S. model is really only one option on how to solve resource problems.”

“This knowledge is going to be invaluable to me as I move up in my career field,” Williams continued. “It has been an exceptional experience for me.”

Chike learned about the IDMC course through his involvement in the Foreign Area Officer-Cultural Ambassador Program (FAO-CAP) DRMI runs for its international participants. FAO-CAP aims to increase cross-cultural communication and cultural understanding by pairing visiting international participants with cultural ambassadors. Williams, who was attending the Spanish course at DLIFLC when he heard about the program, was one of the first volunteers.

“The Cultural Ambassador Program benefits international officers and the FAOs as well,” said Williams of his experience volunteering with the international participants at DRMI. “The way they communicate is different, and that is exactly the situation that Foreign Area Officers have to navigate on a daily basis.”

The cultural ambassadors are made up primarily of FAOs that are currently enrolled at NPS or DLIFLC. Dr. Charles J. LaCivita, DRMI’s Executive Director, believed using FAO’s as cultural ambassadors for FAO-CAP was a natural fit.

“In recent years, the FAO community at large has undergone a radical shift. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq highlighted the need and benefit of regional expertise. With the global war on terror and the DoD’s new mission focus on building partnership capability, the FAO’s role is only increasing in value,” said LaCivita. “A 2004 DoD directive required all the services to establish FAO programs similar to that of the Army, directly contributing to an increase of FAOs at NPS. This influx coincided with DRMI’s curriculum changes, particularly those concerning cross-cultural communications. Recognizing an opportunity to foster a mutually beneficial partnership…DRMI created the FAO-CAP.” 

Charlie Orsburn, the FAO-CAP Coordinator and Field Studies Program Manager at DRMI, explained how FAO-CAP works.

 “We pair international participants with the FAO’s region of study at NPS or DLIFLC. It is DRMI’s hope that the relationships of trust built through the FAO-CAP experience will foster effective communication within their regions of service, creating a more secure global environment,” Orsburn said.

Next up for Chike is a return to DLIFLC for Portuguese instruction. While there, Williams will be the new FAO-CAP representative.

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