MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- A dozen international military students from the Kingdom of Bahrain are nearing the end of their courses of study at the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics school after months of instruction.
Twelve enlisted airmen of the Royal Bahraini Air Force arrived at the Combat Center in October to learn the intricacies of the AN/TPS-59 long range 3-D search radar at MCCES.
Prior to learning that system, though, they had to progress through a three-month long prerequisite class as would any other Marine or international student, said Staff Sgt. Harold F. Tew, radar instructor with MCCES’ Charlie Company.
“They went through the basic electronics course, which teaches theory, before going through to us at the radar maintenance course,” said Tew, who will remain the student’s chief instructor until they leave March 20.
“It’s been great teaching them,” said Tew, who began with the Bahrainis on Jan. 31. “First off, their English is good, and they are a great group who are very willing to learn. It’s fun to teach someone who is eager to learn. They have performed a little better than our regular Marine students. They have a good general knowledge of electronics coming in here and are older overall and grasp it well.”
Although MCCES regularly hosts international military students, the current Bahraini group is the largest ever for the school, said John Coronado, international military student officer at MCCES. The purpose of their visit was to train personnel who are going to operate the AN/TPS-59 array the Royal Bahraini Air Force recently purchased.
“This is the largest group of international students we have ever received. Usually we’ll only have two or three at a time,” said Coronado. “It’s been a little challenging for us, but when they need something, they are not afraid to ask for it.”
One thing that was asked for in particular was the establishment of a place of prayer for the students. Bahrain is a predominantly Islamic country and their visit to Twentynine Palms came during the height of the 30-day Ramadan holiday. By moving beds and furniture around and laying down carpet in vacant room, they soon had a designated place of worship.
“When they arrived, we helped them to create a prayer room in the barracks,” said Coronado. “We set up the prayer room after they got here because we didn’t know exactly what they needed. Initially we made arrangements to use a room in the chapel, but because it was right during Ramadan and the frequency of times throughout the day they would be praying, we found it was better to have it closer.”
In addition to accommodating needs, all 12 students were assigned sponsors from within the battalion instructor staff to act as escorts to help welcome and guide them in American and Marine Corps culture.
“It’s been a good experience working with the instructors here at the school,” said Sgt. Saleh Ahmed. “The Marines have been very friendly. We visited a lot of places like Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Palm Springs with them.”
Although a gap in language and culture exists, Marines and staff working with the Bahrainis have said their experiences have been very encouraging throughout the entire six months of their tenure.
“All of the Bahrainis have been outstanding guests and are very friendly,” said Coronado. “It’s been a very positive experience overall for everybody. I’m actually going to be disappointed when they have to leave next week. I only wish we can host more students from Bahrain in the future.”