ISR Reservists Become Warrior Diplomats at United Nations

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  • 655th ISRW

Reserve Citizen Airmen from across the 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing trained in military diplomacy at the United Nations here in early May.

The two-day training, led by the 655th ISR Group’s 16th Intelligence Squadron, included discussions on foreign policy with experts at the Council on Foreign Relations, briefings by the U.S. military advisor and acting U.S. deputy permanent representative to the UN, a tour of the UN and participation in the 18.6-mile Norwegian Foot March alongside military personnel from 17 countries.

“We are forging Air Force Reserve Citizen Airmen into warrior diplomats,” said Lt. Col. Philip Caruso, 16th IS director of operations. “The United States military operates worldwide alongside allies and partners, while engaging closely with host nation governments as well as interacting with competitors and adversaries. Our Airmen are part of that.”

The training began at the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading foreign policy think tank based in New York, where Col. Erin Staine-Pyne and other U.S. military fellows convened a panel of experts n Russia and China to discuss U.S. foreign policy and civil-military relations with 655th ISRW Airmen.

From there, the Airmen traveled to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where they met with Ambassador Jeffrey Delaurentis, the acting U.S. deputy permanent representative to the UN, for a discussion on multilateral affairs and U.S. diplomacy at the UN.

“Given our country’s alliances, partnerships and commitment to multilateral diplomacy, U.S. military members quite frequently work in multilateral organizations,” Delaurentis said. “It was a pleasure to host such thoughtful and engaging Reserve Airmen. They are better prepared to work alongside international partners at the UN or elsewhere.”

The Reserve Citizen Airmen also received a briefing on UN peacekeeping and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Military Staff Committee from Col. Justin Sapp, the mission’s military advisor.

“The Department of Defense needs warrior diplomats who possess a unique mix of operational experience and in-depth knowledge of the nuances of working with foreign militaries,” Sapp said. “It is therefore important for the DoD to identify and develop a cohort of such personnel.”

Sapp led a tour of the UN Headquarters, the UN General Assembly and the UN Economic and Social Council, where Airmen had the opportunity to see multilateral diplomacy in action.

On the second day, 655th ISRW Airmen represented the United States in the Norwegian Foot March, a rigorous 18.6-mile military march in uniform with a 25-pound pack hosted in Queens, New York, by the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN. The march tested the Airmen’s physical and mental toughness while offering the opportunity to train alongside 45 other military members from 17 countries and demonstrate the warrior ethos of Reserve Citizen Airmen.

Participants slogged for up to five hours for the chance to earn the Norwegian Foot March badge. In all, 12 of 14 655th ISRW Airmen earned the badge, with Staff Sgt. Paul Sandstrom of the 16th IS and Staff Sgt. Sha’vona Hird of the 28th IS finishing in first place among all non-Norwegian personnel within the male and female categories, respectively.

“This was such an amazing mental and physical challenge,” Hird said. “I am proud and honored to have been able to experience such camaraderie from my military brothers and sisters and to stand next to each of you and persevere.”

After the march, Norwegian military advisors hosted an awards ceremony at the Norwegian Mission, where 60 sore and tired participants bonded further as brothers and sisters in arms at the UN.

“Many foreign military advisors who participated never have, and may never again, get to see the dedication and toughness of American Airmen, especially our noncommissioned officers and junior officers,” Caruso said. “This was an opportunity for them to see whether we truly are the greatest fighting force in the history of humankind, and our 655th ISRW Airmen proved that to be true. They represented the United States in the strongest possible way and should all be proud of what they did here.”