IMSO hosts food and cultural exchange

Photo By Chad Menegay | Philippine Air Force 1st Lt. Novel Sotto, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer, serves Asian food to service members and Army Sustainment University staff April 24, 2024, as part of the International Military Student Office’s Open House at ASU, Fort Gregg-Adams, Va. The event featured the ethnic foods of over 20 countries and cultural exchanges by service members from about 40 countries. (U.S. Army photo by Chad Menegay)



Story by Chad Menegay 

Fort Gregg-Adams  

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FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. — The Army Sustainment University’s International Military Student Office hosted an Open House April 24 featuring ethnic foods from more than 20 countries and cultural exchanges by service members from about 40 countries.

IMSO staff staged military students according to regions (AFRICOM, CENTCOM, EUCOM, PACOM, and SOUTHCOM) next to food service stations and encouraged participants to open dialogue and learn about the IMSO students’ cultures while tasting their food.

“During the event, international military students proudly shared information about their country—to include history, military, artifacts, culture, country attire, dance and music,” said Donna Wells, IMSO Chief. “It’s like visiting a culture without actually being there, sparking interest to a place you may now want to visit.”

Since food is universal, and since everyone around the world gathers with family and friends to share meals and talk, IMSO staff decided to use food as an avenue for culture exchange and camaraderie, Wells said.

Raising awareness of the Fort Gregg-Adams IMSO’s special mission is key because the office is typically responsible for over 100 foreign students at any given time.

Those students need volunteers for ideal support.

“International military students are miles away from home, some in a culture that is totally different from what they are used to,” Wells said. “The IMSO is here just to support all IMS’s. It’s a place where they can get help, answers and support to any and all things. The IMSO works to show and give IMS’s a better understanding about the U.S., our government, our schools, our judicial system, diversity and human rights.”

Since IMSO staff members work to have three sponsor roles assigned to every international student, there is a continuous need for volunteers.

“The primary purpose of the IMSO Open House is to gain sponsors, get people involved and educated about the international military community,” Wells said.

Over 20,000 foreign military students train in the U.S. annually, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

“IMS’s having the opportunity to train, learn and work together helps for the good of everyone around the world,” Wells said. “IMS’s are interested in learning about different cultures and become great friends to those from different parts of the world. The relationships they create are lifelong.”

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