At Fort Benning in Columbus is a school that retired Army Col. Ruben D. Colon describes as a military version of the United Nations.
He teaches at the school and Wednesday brought his students, who are military and law enforcement officers from across the Western Hemisphere, to the Museum of Aviation to learn from the past. They are studying World War II bombing strategy and the museum offered a chance to get a close-up view of some of the planes they have been researching at the school, called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
Colon said the aim of the school is to improve how nations work together to combat terrorism, fight drug trafficking or respond to natural disasters.
“If there is a conflict, the hope is that students within the course have made a good relationship with a student of another country, and they usually keep that friendship and it goes on beyond the year at the school,” Colon said.
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Among more than 60 students, each in the uniforms of their countries, on the museum visit was Lt. Col. Felix Kirven, a navy helicopter pilot in Panama. He was excited to see historic aircraft he had learned about, and said his experiences at the school will help him when he goes back home.
“The most important for me is the relationship with the other partners,” he said. “It’s most important to work together.”
He is about seven months in to a one year course before he heads back home.
The students spent time in the Scott World War II Hangar, where they saw the B-17 bomber restoration in progress, the B-29 bomber, and other famous World War II aircraft. They learned how each was used during the war and how strategy changed during the course of the conflict.
Although aircraft, technology and strategy have changed considerably since World War II, Colon said there are lessons that still apply today.
“History has a way of teaching what we can do in the present and adjusting what we do in the present, “ Colon said.
The students touring the museum are in the school’s Command and General Staff Officer course, which is the same as the U.S. Army course taught at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, except that the Benning course is taught in Spanish.