The United States has been training regional specialists in southern Germany since 1947. Starting with Field Detachment R in Oberammergau, Germany and continuing with the U.S. Army Institute for Advanced Russian and Eastern European Studies at Sheridan Kaserne, Garmisch, Germany, the Eurasian Foreign Area Officer (FAO) training program continues its original mission by creating adaptable and leading regional experts who will serve in key political-military assignments throughout the European and Eurasian theaters.
Since its inception as Field Detachment R, the Eurasian FAO Training Program has graduated ninety-eight classes, consisting of 1418 students including twenty-four general officers, twenty ambassadors, and numerous other high-ranking dignitaries.
What is a FAO?
FAOs provide adaptive leadership and expertise for their region, advising senior military and civilian leaders. They help the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) understand the decisions, policies, and professional cultures of our allies, partners, and potential adversaries.
FAOs are often called strategic scouts because they are capable of operating independently and in complex forward environments. They are considered military diplomats because they combine military expertise with unique competencies — cross-cultural capabilities, interpersonal communications, and advanced foreign-language skills.
The In-Region Training Program
To create these strategic scouts, FAO training combines advanced language instruction, a graduate degree, and in-region training (IRT). The typical length of IRT is twelve months. While each FAO executes a uniquely tailored training program specific to his or her developmental needs, most FAOs can expect to spend twelve months living, working, and traveling in their region.
FAOs who complete their IRT at the Eurasian Foreign Area Officer Training Program at the GCMC will complete these core elements:
- Advance their mastery of a foreign language through language immersion programs and the GCMC PLTCE courses.
- Travel extensively to the different sub regions of Europe and Eurasia to study diplomatic and security institutions.
- Carry out military representative assignments at U.S. embassies, working in offices of defense cooperation, and in security institutions such as EUCOM or NATO.
- Conduct independent and guided research with the help of the Marshall Center’s world-class faculty, courses, and seminars.
- Write research and policy papers to hone their ability to think, write, and brief at the strategic level.
This diverse program ensures the DOD has a range of experts to understand the world’s geopolitical security problems affecting Europe and Eurasia.
After completing the overall training, FAOs will go on to serve in U.S. embassies across Europe and Eurasia, in NATO and major U.S. theater command staffs, and on numerous operational missions throughout the world.