Air University Review, September-October 1968

Military Assistance
Training Program

Lieutenant Colonel Frank H. Robertson

The Military Assistance Program (MAP) is an integral part of the overall United States foreign aid program and is designed to raise the effectiveness of the military forces of recipient nations to a level that will give reasonable assurance of internal security. MAP provides the means whereby selected countries are either furnished or sold equipment to achieve a specified force structure. It follows that if we provide military equipment, we also have a responsibility to insure its proper use. Qualified technicians of the recipient country must be available to operate the equipment and perform necessary maintenance. Supervisory and planning personnel must be trained in the tactics and techniques necessary for proper use of equipment and people. Training is thus an extremely important part of the program. The United States cooperates in this area through the Military Assistance Training Program (MATP).

There are several methods by which Military Assistance training can be funded, just as in the materiel portion of the program. The most common of these are Grant Aid and Foreign Military Sales. Under Grant Aid, the United States pays for the training. Funds for this purpose are included in the Military Assistance portion of the Foreign Aid Bill each year. The funds are paid to the U.S. military department or agency that provides the training services to the foreign country. By the Foreign Military Sales method, these services are purchased by the foreign countries from or through the United States military organizations. There are also various cost-sharing and barter arrangements to provide assistance. However, the method of paying for training assistance is not of particular significance in this article except to illustrate a growing trend toward Military Sales (discussed later).

There are three main locales in which training under the Military Assistance Program takes place:

ConUS training. The training conducted in the continental United States is accomplished by formalized courses of instruction as well as by on-the-job training (OJT) and observer programs conducted by U.S. training, operational, and support organizations.

Overseas training. The training conducted by U.S. units located in overseas areas is normally by OJT programs. A noteworthy exception is the Inter-American Air Forces Academy at Albrook Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone, where courses are taught in both Spanish and Portuguese.1

In-country training. The most typical example of training conducted within a foreign country by personnel sent for that specific purpose is the Mobile Training Team. The team is composed of highly qualified officer and NCO specialists, who provide training assistance in a specific area. The team is limited to a maximum of six months in-country. Mobile Training Teams are normally provided from ConUS resources; however, overseas commands frequently provide them.

In the United States Air Force, the Air Training Command is the prime agency responsible for implementing the ConUS portion of the Military Assistance Training Program. The overseas major air commands handle MAP-sponsored training on bases and in units within their areas of operation. Headquarters United States Air Force and the overseas major air commands share the responsibility for providing Mobile Training Teams.

Air Training Command’s role in the Military Assistance Training Program is varied and widespread. In fulfilling its obligation, the command does more than provide training within its training centers and wings. It also renders a management service by arranging for training of foreign air force personnel in other USAF commands, by other services and government agencies, and through contract with civilian industries and universities. (Figure 1)

Figure 1. Source of Military Assistance Program Training—formal OJT observer
Figure 1. Source of Military Assistance Program Training—formal OJT observer

Generally speaking, Air Training Command’s responsibility is to schedule and monitor or conduct training that has been programmed by the Military Assistance Advisory Groups (MAAG) and approved for implementation by the Department of Defense. ATC publishes training schedules, authorizes the MAAG’s to send students at the appropriate time, handles administrative problems involved, moves trainees from one course to the next, and sends students home when they have finished all scheduled training. It also assists the MAAG’s in programming their requirements by recommending appropriate training to solve specific problems. Air Training Command receives and accounts for MAP monies to pay USAF and other agencies for training provided. Figure 2 depicts the MAP training channels of communication in accomplishing these tasks.

Figure 2. Military Assistance Program Training channels in the United States

Figure 2. Military Assistance Program Training channels in the United States

During any given year 55-60 foreign countries participate in the Military Assistance Training Program, and 2200-2500 students are trained. This represents over 7000 training spaces each year, as trainees normally attend more than one course of instruction. The scheduling of these personnel results in 1600-1800 students from 40-50 countries in ConUS training at any one time. Of these, approximately 1200-1400 will be on Air Training Command bases, the remainder being dispersed throughout the other commands and training agencies in the ConUS. These students come from all over the world. A survey of the trainees at one of the larger ATC training centers would reveal students from widely diverse nations, varying from industrial countries like the Federal Republic of Germany to emerging African nations such as Mali, from the desert nations of Morocco and Saudi Arabia to the tropical republics of Latin America. Of course, a large percentage would be from the Far East—Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, Republic of Korea.

Training provided under the Military Assistance Program varies almost as much as the origin of the students. It ranges from familiarization with USAF procedures and techniques to maintenance or operation of the world’s most modern weapon systems. Limited numbers of personnel even receive university-level education under MAP sponsorship. Many foreign trainees attend Air Training Command’s undergraduate pilot training schools and then proceed to other commands, primarily Tactical Air Command, for combat crew training. Technical school graduates go on to OJT programs at various USAF units for vital practice of their newly learned skills in an actual operational environment. Various professional courses, such as those available at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, or observer programs at USAF hospitals provide training for foreign medical personnel. The Squadron Officer School and Air Command and Staff College conducted by Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base provide necessary managerial training for key personnel and future leaders of many foreign countries. In addition to actual instruction, the Air Training Command sends special teams to survey in-country training programs and make recommendations for improvement. Further assistance is provided by Technical Training Centers in developing and providing training equipment.

Normally, Military Assistance training is limited to key personnel and instructors. However, a notable exception is in the flying training area, specifically in undergraduate pilot training. This type of training is, of course, very expensive to establish, prohibitively so for many small countries. For this reason it is much more economical to purchase or obtain through Grant Aid the limited training spaces needed. Training can then be accomplished in either the regular jet undergraduate pilot training course or in a special course in propeller-driven aircraft. The regular USAF jet undergraduate pilot training program is conducted at nine different Air Training Command bases scattered throughout the southern and southwestern parts of the United States. Foreign trainees attend this course with American students at all these bases.

For those countries that do not need training in jet aircraft the Air Training Command conducts a course in conventional aircraft at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The training consists of 200 hours of flight instruction in the T-28 propeller-driven aircraft, an excellent, well-proven trainer. This course was designed specifically for foreign students, and the tempo of instruction has been adapted to fit their needs. Upon graduation, trainees are awarded USAF pilot wings, and they usually proceed to C-47 aircraft at Keesler or receive transition and combat crew training in some other type of aircraft with a unit of the Tactical Air Command.

For the past few years, the majority of students in the T-28 course have been from the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF), though many from other Asian, Latin American, and African countries have participated. Most of the RVNAF trainees have either checked out as C-47 pilots or have gone to Hurlburt Field, Florida, to become combat-ready A-1 pilots. Recently the Tactical Air Command has begun training RVNAF pilots in the A-37 aircraft at England AFB, Louisiana. This combined training effort by the Air Training Command and the Tactical Air Command has been the backbone of the RVNAF flying training program and has made a significant contribution to the struggle between the free world and Communism.

Larger countries also encounter problems in providing for their own pilot training. In the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), for instance, a combination of limited airspace and bad flying weather makes training of jet pilots an extremely difficult and hazardous task. The FRG Air Force, therefore, requested assistance from the USAF in meeting its jet pilot training requirements. Since they needed more jet training spaces than the USAF could sell them in its regular undergraduate jet course, a joint agreement was reached and FRG Air Force pilots are now being trained in a special course at Sheppard AFB, Texas. The normal jet undergraduate pilot program consists of a preliminary light-plane phase utilizing T-41 aircraft, followed by T-37 and T-38 phases. However, the FRG Air Force gives its trainees light-plane training before they come to the United States. They then receive T-37 and T-38 instruction at Sheppard, and upon completion they go on to advanced training either in the United States or in the Federal Republic of Germany. Those who remain here go on to the F-104 at Tactical Air Command’s F-104 combat crew training course at Luke AFB, Arizona. A unique feature of this program is that the FRG Air Force provides instructors and staff officers to assist USAF personnel in conducting the undergraduate program at Sheppard. The actual flying and related academic portions are conducted by USAF instructors, but the FRG Air Force conducts its own officer military training as an integral part of the course. FRG Air Force staff personnel are also available to assist in the F-104 training at Luke. All trainees are required to meet USAF course standards before they graduate.

Most people think of the Military Assistance Training Program as being paid for by the United States, which was generally true until a few years ago. However, there has been a drastic swing from Grant Aid (GA) to Foreign Military Sales (FMS) as shown in accompanying table. Were it not for the war in Vietnam, the swing would have been even more drastic. The causes behind this trend are many, but it is primarily a case of those who can afford to pay and those who cannot. As the Congress of the United States has reduced foreign aid appropriations, the Department of Defense has limited the countries eligible to receive Grant Aid assistance.

There also has been a gradual trend toward more sophisticated training. As the various countries throughout the world seek to modernize their air forces by higher-performance aircraft and associated equipment, there is an increased need for more highly qualified pilots and maintenance personnel. The United States Air Force has had much experience in preparing foreign air forces for receipt of new aircraft and has developed a most effective training plan to accomplish this. The F-5 Freedom Fighter training plan is an excellent example of the “cadre” concept. It provides for transition and instructor training for 6 pilots, maintenance and instructor training for 15 instructor technicians, and maintenance training for 36 key technicians. This program establishes both an instructor cadre and a maintenance cadre for the country.

The training of F-5 personnel is a joint effort by Air Training Command and Tactical Air Command at Williams AFB, Arizona. The pilots undergo a 2-week aircrew familiarization course in the Field Training Detachment of Air Training Command. They then proceed to the 4441st Combat Crew Training Wing (TAC) for transition and instructor pilot training for 13 additional weeks. The maintenance and maintenance instructor cadre personnel receive from 3 to 11 weeks of specialized training with the Field Training Detachment and then 2 to 8 weeks of OJT in the base maintenance shops at Williams. The maintenance personnel selected to be instructors also receive specialized training in instructional techniques; they prepare the lesson plans they will use when they return to their homeland. The maintenance instructor cadre is scheduled to complete training and return home 60 to 90 days before the aircraft are to be delivered.

At this time a Mobile Training Set, consisting of various training aids, mockups, cutaways, etc., is also delivered, and a USAF Mobile Training Team from Air Training Command arrives to set up the equipment. This team begins training additional maintenance personnel for the country. The instructor cadre assists this team and determines how to conduct the various courses. The cadre then takes over the training of a second group of technicians, and the USAF instructors observe and assist as necessary. This training period normally covers about three months. When this second group of technicians is trained, the Mobile Training Team returns home. Shortly before the team leaves, airframe and engine technical representatives (“Tech Reps”) arrive to assist the country technical instructors in conducting OJT and follow-on upgrade training. These personnel depart after one year, and the country Air Force is then on its own.

A similar joint training effort takes place with the pilot cadre and a Mobile Training Team of two instructor pilots furnished by Tactical Air Command. This cadre plan insures that sufficient numbers of aircrew and maintenance personnel are trained and ready when the aircraft are delivered. The plan, or modifications of it, has worked well in nine countries that are now flying the F-5 Freedom Fighter: Iran, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Ethiopia, Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Republic of Vietnam. The cadre concept of training is readily adapted to other types of aircraft and is the basic plan used in the Military Assistance Training Program.

Training for foreign students in the United States is conducted in English. Separate classes for foreign trainees are not normally scheduled unless the course is simply one in which USAF personnel would usually not participate, such as T-28 Undergraduate Pilot Training. Even these special classes are taught in English by USAF personnel. Therefore, the foreign trainee must be fluent enough in the English language to enable him to assimilate the instruction and perform any tasks required of him. Most countries participating in the Military Assistance Training Program provide English language instruction to their students before they come to the United States. All students must achieve passing scores on English Comprehension Level tests administered by MAAG personnel or else receive English language training when they come to the United States.

English language training under the Military Assistance Program is provided by the Defense Language Institute English Language School located at Lackland AFB. The English Language School provides instruction for all foreign trainees participating in the Military Assistance Training Program, regardless of whether their follow-on training is with the Army, Navy, or Air Force.

Unless there are security limitations, foreign trainees are treated in the same manner as their counterparts in the United States Air Force. They are also expected to assume the same responsibilities as U.S. personnel. In the Air Training Command, this is especially significant since all students, U.S. or foreign, are expected to meet course standards before they are allowed to graduate. For foreign students, this is extremely important: they are usually key personnel who must incorporate the acquired knowledge into their own organizations when they return home. Therefore, extra effort is made to insure that the foreign trainee gets everything possible out of his training. Special training methods, individual attention, additional training time, and oral or practice tests assist the student to complete the course successfully. Practically any method is encouraged so long as it does not lower the standard of proficiency required for graduation. Whenever possible, foreign students are housed, fed, and intermingled with American students during the courses of instruction. This association not only enhances their language proficiency and subject understanding but also aids in developing close and lasting friendships.

Foreign trainees quite naturally experience many problems in adjusting to their new environment, and unique situations arise. To minimize their effects, a Foreign Training Office is established at each base where there are foreign trainees. The manning of these offices varies considerably, depending on the foreign student enrollment. At many locations the job of the Foreign Training Officer is an additional duty, whereas at others it may be a primary duty with several staff members to assist. In any case, the Foreign Training Office serves as the single point of contact on the base for matters pertaining to training and administration of foreign students. The Foreign Training Officer has a most difficult and perplexing job at times, but his efforts are rewarded by increased understanding and goodwill.

Selected countries also have liaison officers assigned to Air Training Command to assist in the administration of their students. At present there are liaison officers from Ethiopia, Federal Republic of Germany, Iran, Republic of Korea, Morocco, Norway, Turkey, and Republic of Vietnam. These officers provide invaluable assistance to the training units wherever students from their country are located.

While the primary objective of the Military Assistance Training Program is to develop professional and technical skills in foreign air forces, the program has a second objective: to provide a better understanding of the United States by introducing foreign trainees to the significant aspects of American life. Called the Informational Program for Foreign Military Trainees and Visitors to the United States (Informational Program for short), it is designed to expose foreign trainees to American society, institutions, and ideals through lectures, discussions, films, visits, and tours. The activities are carefully planned by the Foreign Training Officers to meet the objectives of the program and to utilize judiciously the limited funds available for this purpose. The scope of the program includes agriculture, labor, education, U.S. government, the judicial system, press, etc. The Informational Program is built around the idea of showing America rather than selling America. America will sell itself if foreign students have the opportunity to see for themselves. Community support is perhaps the most important factor contributing to a successful program. Experience has shown that the civilian community responds enthusiastically, when made aware of the program. Likewise the foreign trainees enjoy the opportunity to leave the military environment and get acquainted with Americans and learn more about the host country. These international friendships literally span the globe! The Informational Program is a very important part of our foreign aid, and the resulting goodwill, friendship, and mutual understanding may well pay greater dividends in the long run than the actual training received by the foreign students.

The Military Assistance Training Program, then, is many different things to our several allies. But to all of them, rich or poor, it is the vehicle that gives them the chance to have the best-trained air force in the free world. It also allows us the opportunity to work firsthand with our friends and neighbors. These correlative opportunities have the residual effect of helping to insure smooth international relations in years to come.

It has been demonstrated again and again that the people we train through the Military Assistance Training Program rise to high positions in their countries. While underscoring this fact, a former Secretary of Defense said, “In all probability, the greatest return on a portion of our military assistance investment—dollar for dollar—comes from the training of selected officers and key specialists in United States schools and installations. These students are handpicked—they are the coming leaders of their nations. It is beyond price to the United States to make friends of these men.”

Air Training Command has been training foreign students for many years. Over 45,000 have been trained since 1950 in the United States alone. Many thousands more have been trained by USAF units overseas. This program has but one purpose: to help establish in friendly foreign air forces the capability to operate, maintain, and properly utilize their equipment and personnel. This purpose can only be achieved by effective education and training. The Military Assistance Training Program is an essential part of the United States foreign policy. To have strong allies, we must have well-trained allies. Air Training Command is proud to be doing its part.

Hq Air Training Command


1. Dr. A. Glenn Morton, “The Inter-American Air Forces Academy,” Air University Review, November-December 1966, pp. 11-20.


Lieutenant Colonel Frank H. Robertson is Chief, Operations Division Directorate of Military Assistance DCS/Plans, Hq Air Training Command. Commissioned from Officer Candidate School in 1950, he has served in various training assignments at the USAF Basic Military Training School Hq Technical Training Air Force, and Hq Air Training Command. His overseas tours have been as Training Officer, 58th Fighter Bomber Wing, Korea, 1953-54, and as Education and Training Advisor to the Argentine Air Force, 1961-64. He was a member of the Presidential Emergency Relief Mission to the Dominican Republic, 1965. Colonel Robertson’s assignment since 1964 has included visits to 16 foreign countries and participation in conferences at USAF and Unified Command level concerning the Military Assistance Training Program.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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