Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the more frequently asked questions about WHINSEC in general.
The Institute is on the main post of Fort Benning, adjacent to Columbus, GA.
7161 Richardson Circle, Fort Benning, GA 31905-2507
Yes. Please call (706) 545-1923.
About 1500 on average.
Any country in the Organization of American States authorized by the U.S. State Department to send students to U.S. schools may send students here.
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation was established by federal law (Title 10, US Code, Sec. 2166), and opened in January 2001 to provide professional education and training to military, civilian and law enforcement personnel from eligible nations of the Western Hemisphere. The Institute provides the nations of the Western Hemisphere (including U.S. Military) the opportunity to enhance the professional level of their national military, uniformed police and civilian security workforce and to provide them the tools to successfully use multinational and interagency approaches to regional security challenges. An equally crucial component of the WHINSEC mission is the establishment of professional and personal relationships within and among participating nations, encouraging cooperation at all levels.
During 2000, Congress saw a need in this post Cold-War world for an institute that would provide professional education and training for military, law enforcement and civilian leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere. WHINSEC was created by law, the 2001 Defense Authorization Act, 10 USC, Sec 2166, and opened its doors Jan. 17, 2001. Courses run the gamut from disaster relief and peace keeping operations to the 49-week officer command and general staff course.
There is a strategic need for the institute. The United States is a partner in preparing Western Hemisphere societies, military forces and civilian officials for current security challenges and in strengthening democracy and protecting human rights.
The institute fills a vital role in building the capacities of security forces in the region to meet those challenges. Perhaps more importantly, its diversity promotes relationship-building among countries and even within countries in places where past distrust of the military and police forces have hampered democratic development and sustainment. The professional development of militaries and law enforcement working together is key to the cooperation envisioned by our leaders as part of our national security strategy.
The purpose of the institute is to provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the charter of the Organization of American States (to which the United States is a signatory). Those principles are:
- (a) to strengthen the peace and security of the continent;
- (b) to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of nonintervention;
- (c) to prevent possible causes of difficulties and to ensure the peaceful settlement of disputes that may arise among the member states;
- (d) to provide for common action on the part of those states in the event of aggression;
- (e) to seek the solution of political, judicial and economic problems that may arise among them;
- (f) to promote -- by cooperative action -- their economic, social and cultural development;
- (g) to eradicate extreme poverty, which constitutes an obstacle to the full democratic development of the peoples of the hemisphere; and
- (h) to achieve an effective limitation of conventional weapons that will make it possible to devote the largest amount of resources to the economic and social development of the member states. These principles are listed in Chapter One, Article Two, of the OAS charter, dated 1997.
For more information on the charter, please go to: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/charter.html
Yes, but with a much broader reach and greater joint and interagency involvement. Since the end of the Cold War, Latin America has evolved greatly with the spread of democracy and the emergence of new challenges to peace and stability. The U. S. Army School of the Americas (USARSA), activated during July 1963, fulfilled its Cold War-era mission and was closed during 2000. Congress recognized the need to maintain this forum for building partner-nation security force capacity, and for fostering relationships among the nations with an emphasis on democratic principles and human rights. Just as the region has evolved, our approaches to working with defense ministries and militaries in the hemisphere to meet new challenges have changed as well. One school closed because it had fulfilled its mission; WHINSEC opened to meet new and changing needs.
The name “School of the Americas” came to stand for a series of Army schools that actually began in 1946. For more than 50 years, the United States has had a tradition of cooperative training within the Western Hemisphere. The Army’s first school, The Latin American Training Center – U.S. Ground Forces, was established in Panama during 1946 and trained more than 8,000 U.S. military members in lessons we had learned from the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Many Latin Americans trained along with their U.S. counterparts. During 1949 the Latin American Training Center expanded and became the U.S. Army Caribbean Training Center with the additional mission to help modernize Latin American and Caribbean militaries. In 1963, under President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, the training center expanded again and was renamed the U.S. Army School of the Americas (USARSA). The school moved to Fort Benning, near Columbus, Ga., in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaties.
More than 61,000 officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers have attended courses at these U.S. Army schools. They have helped foster a spirit of cooperation and interoperability among militaries throughout the hemisphere. The vast majority contributed positively to the region’s transition to democracy. They have also helped avoid international conflict in the hemisphere. Just as the region continues to evolve, our approaches to helping nations in the hemisphere to meet new challenges must change as well.
The U. S. School of the Americas taught military education courses as they were taught in our own U. S. Armed Forces institutions -- only USARSA translated the courses, lessons plans and all, into Spanish. Beginning in 1963, and evolving as the region changed, USARSA taught, at various times, professional military education and training courses to officers and non-commissioned officers in the areas of:
- professional leadership (Command and General Staff course, Military Police courses, Infantry Officers Basic course, Artillery Officers course and a Cadet Orientation course);
- infantry weapons (Mortar Officer course);
- technical support (Engineer Basic and Officer courses, Radio Operators course, Small Caliber Repair course, Wheeled Vehicle Maintenance course and Medical Assistance courses);
- counter-insurgency (Internal Defense and Development course, Military Intelligence course, Military Police course), introduced during 1963;
- specialized leadership and skills (Ranger course, Air Mobile course, Jungle Operations course, Patrolling course, Parachute Rigging course, Basic Airborne course, Pathfinder and Jumpmaster courses).
Congress withdrew the Secretary of the Army’s authority to operate USARSA in the FY01 National Defense Act thereby forcing the school to close at the end of 2000. Since the end of the Cold War, Latin America has evolved greatly with the spread of democracy and the emergence of new challenges to peace and stability. The school closed because it had fulfilled its Cold War era mission, because concerned citizens desired change, and because the region’s needs exceeded USARSA’s capabilities and authorizations.
Just as the region has evolved, our approach to helping nations in the hemisphere to meet new challenges has changed as well.
The institute is an entity of the U.S. Department of Defense. Its goals explicitly include strengthening democracy, instilling a clear understanding of the rule of law and honoring human rights. It offers an array of courses that support our own strategies for meeting challenges in a Joint, Inter-governmental, Inter-agency, and Multi-national way, understanding that not only are the problems common to all, but also that the best way to address them is in working together.
Congress mandated a Board of Visitors to provide external and independent oversight of the institute's operations. The board of visitors includes members of the U.S. Congress, representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Defense, religious and human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations.
WHINSEC offers courses that look to the future while providing a strong core of professional military education and leadership training. The student body includes law enforcement officers, and governmental civilians as well as military representatives of our hemispheric partners. The curriculum includes courses in areas such as disaster relief, peacekeeping operations, and counterdrug operations.
The institute offers professional military education courses for the leadership development needs of cadets, military officers and non-commissioned officers. There is a command and general staff officer course, as well as officer advanced courses and NCO development courses. Current course catalogs may be found on this web site.
The WHINSEC faculty includes U. S. military and civilians, along with partner-nation instructors. The Department of State assigns a Foreign Service Officer, and other government agencies and non-governmental organizations add subject-matter experts as needed to teach in several courses.
The long-term goals of U.S. foreign policy have been hemispheric peace and democratization. That is in the best interests of the United States and the nations of this hemisphere. The dramatic transformation to democratic rule that has occurred throughout the hemisphere took place to a degree because of U.S. diplomacy and engagement. The institute is one tool supporting U.S. policy in the region with its primary focus on enhancing security force capacity to meet issues and doing so in a legal, moral, ethical context. The military and civilian faculty chosen from throughout the hemisphere is a superb example of our common values and principles and demonstrates these values through a sound educational process. Every course includes a minimum of eight hours of human rights instruction that addresses just war theory, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva and Hague Conventions, the proper role of a military in a democratic society and relevant case studies. Human rights experts also provide instruction. In longer courses, students spend far more time on human rights issues.
Human rights scenarios are also included in practical exercises and field training. This mandatory instruction provides a comprehensive, substantive, and relevant curriculum that genuinely supports and communicates international standards of human rights defined in international laws and treaties. It promotes the national values enshrined as rights in the U.S. Constitution and international treaties and emphasizes the U. S. commitment to democracy and human rights.
There is a thorough screening process in place, followed at all U.S. government schools. Before coming to WHINSEC each student is “vetted” by the U.S. embassy in that country, and the screening is reviewed at the State Department. If there is any hint of wrongdoing in the student’s past, the student is not given a visa to come to the United States. This dual system of checks and balances helps ensure the selection of only the best-qualified military and civilian candidates. It is a complex but thorough process.
How can you ensure students graduating from your institute will not commit crimes against their people?
Just as any school cannot guarantee that some of their students will not someday commit crimes, neither can we. We provide our students with the training to help them better understand their role in serving a democratic society. They learn what it means to “protect and serve.” They learn the moral and ethical reasons for doing what is right and just in their duties, and they learn the practical benefit—the support of their people.
We can guarantee that all instruction will be conducted in accordance with U.S. law, doctrine and policy. The institute instructs its students within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States and supporting agreements, while fostering mutual knowledge, confidence and cooperation among the participating nations and promoting democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of U. S. customs and traditions. The operation and curriculum of this institute are under the independent oversight of the Board of Visitors that includes members of the U. S. Congress, representatives from the State Department, Department of Defense, along with civilians from academia, religious and human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations. WHINSEC maintains the highest academic standards, and its faculty and staff present forward-looking and relevant courses to address the needs of the nations within the hemisphere.
Do you ‘track’ former students to know they have not committed and illegal acts after leaving the institute?
By U.S. law, none of the 150 DoD schools teaching foreign students may “track” students after they return home. When students return to their own countries, the U. S. military groups there maintain ties with them as part of the U.S. military-to-military engagement plan. There is also a report to Congress each year on all U.S. education and training of foreign students; the report includes any known illegal activity by former students.
WHINSEC’s Board of Visitors (BOV) is a federal advisory committee that provides external and independent oversight of the institute's operations. The BOV’s 14 members include four members of the U. S. Congress; representatives from the State Department and the Department of Defense; and six persons from academia, clergy and other nongovernmental organizations. Collectively, they provide oversight of the curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs and academic instruction methods of the institute to ensure relevance and consistency with U. S. laws, regulations, policies, goals and doctrine. Following its annual meeting, the Board of Visitors is required to submit a written report to the Secretary of Defense on its activities, views and recommendations pertaining to the governance of the institute. The report is then posted on the Federal Advisory Committee website: www.facadatabase.gov.
Analysis of the costs and benefits to operate WHINSEC for one year shows that the institute is a foreign policy bargain for the United States. In Fiscal Year 2012, the Institute’s budget was approximately $13 million; operations and maintenance of $10 million, augmented by approximately $3 million in U. S. State Department security assistance program funds to finance student tuition and living expenses. When one considers that for this amount, more than 1800 students from 21 countries (including the U.S. and Canada) were touched, the ‘Return on Investment’ is obvious.
If most instruction is given in Spanish, are non-Spanish-speaking Canadians prohibited from attending the WHINSEC?
Canadians and U.S. military personnel are taking courses every year. Many non-Spanish speaking nations have linguists and politico-military specialists who participate in WHINSEC’s unique, multi-national, multi-discipline environment and its courses. WHINSEC also offers a sergeants course in English once per year for the non-Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations.
Here you will find frequently asked questions regarding the academics at WHINSEC.
Yes, at any time. Please contact the public affairs office at (706) 545-1923 for class schedules.
Yes, and when a presenter or instructor does not speak Spanish, simultaneous interpreters from the Translation Division ensure students receive the material accurately in Spanish. One NCO Professional Development Course is taught once per year in English for students from the Caribbean nations. For non-Spanish-speaking visitors, efforts are made to provide interpretation of the class or event.
The Public Affairs Officer at the “Contact Us” link of this Web site.
I would like more information on the now-closed U. S. Army School of the Americas. Where may I get more information?
All official records and documents concerning SOA are in the National Archives, College Park, MD. Because WHINSEC is a different entity, there are no School of the Americas records at the Institute.
Listed below are some questions regarding visiting the Institute.
WHINSEC is located on Fort Benning, at the end of Interstate Highway 185 near Columbus, Ga. Call the PAO for driving directions to our door.
Yes, visitors can see any part of the Institute they wish to visit at any time. If you want someone available to show you around, please call ahead.
Fort Benning has controlled access. Anyone entering Fort Benning must have an identification card with a photo on it--a driver’s license, for example.
No. However, if you wish to see any particular course in session, you should call to find out the course schedule.
Yes, but those do need advance arrangements.
If you are in Columbus on the Friday before the protest or stay the Monday following, you may visit the Institute during its normal operating hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Institute is not open on weekends, and the greatly reduced number of students coming to the protest has caused WHINSEC to discontinue the 'Open House' tours on Saturday.