Class 23-04 welcomes international students back to Enid

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Alyssa Letts
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The start of Class 23-04 brings the return of one of Vance’s many Undergraduate Pilot Training traditions -- training international students. 

Since Nov. 15, 1944, when the 28 international students stepped onto Enid Army Airfield, Vance has trained over 1,060 international students from 48 countries. With the transition to UPT 2.5, there was a pause as allied nations reviewed the modernized syllabus. 

Currently, there are three Polish students at Vance, and students from other countries coming this summer. 

“Having these international students come be a part of our team, and learn American culture, helps us build relationships with those other countries,” said Capt. Jacob Mersino, the International Military Student Officer. “This is important because the majority of what the United States does in the world requires strong partnerships with other countries.” 

As the IMSO, Mersino is in charge of everything from making sure the students arrive in Enid, Oklahoma; with all of the paperwork they need, to getting a room set up for them, and making sure they have everything they would need to succeed in pilot training. 

“Every country is different, but usually the students that come here are a couple of years younger than most of our student pilots,” said Maj. Bryan Rocco, the IMSO from April 2020, to February 2021. “We don’t lower standards for anyone that goes through our pipeline, but we do help provide resources to make sure they succeed.” 

These resources include a variety of tools to include study groups, one-on-one time with instructor pilots and immersion into the American lifestyle through trips locally and potentially across the nation. 

“What better way to immerse these students in the American way of life than to bring them to Enid, Oklahoma,” said Col. Jay Johnson, the 71st Flying Training Wing commander. “The fantastic relationship the base and the city share make Enid the perfect place for international students to see what a welcoming community is truly like.”

“The students come to Vance, because as a nation, we are the best equipped to train fighter pilots,” said Mersino. “We’ve been doing it longer and invest more money than any other nation.” 

At any given point going forward, there will be between five and 15 international students from a variety of countries at Vance.

“We want to make sure they feel welcome, and see what right looks like in their time here at Vance,” said Johnson. 

Mersino is excited to have a global impact. 

“It’s extremely rewarding to not only have an impact on these individual students, but to play a part in better equipping our allies,” said Mersino.