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DLIELC annual AMIGO Picnic returns with more than 500 guests

Students and Col Gillis pose for photo outside at AMIGO picnic.

International Military Students take a picture with Col. Kouji Gillis, Defense Language Institute English Language Center commandant, third from right, at the AMIGO picnic at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 11, 2021. More than 500 people attended the festivities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Spencer Berry)

Students talk with AMIGO volunteers outside.

International Military Students and their families interact with Defense Language Institute English Language Center staff and AMIGO sponsors at the picnic June 11, 2021, at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. AMIGO stands for American Members of International Goodwill to Others. The 2020 picnic was canceled due to the pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Spencer Berry)

Col. Gillis, Col. Schafer and Ms. Boaldin at AMIGO picnic.

Col. Megan Schafer, 37th Training Wing vice commander, and Col. Kouji Gillis, Defense Language Institute English Language Center commandant, speak with Miconna Boaldin, DLIELC Field Studies Program chief, at the AMIGO picnic June 11, 2021. The picnic, held at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Over 500 people attended the festivities June 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Spencer Berry)

People forming up in lines.

Tony Pinales, Defense Language Institute English Language Center, helps coordinate meal lines at the AMIGO picnic, held at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 11, 2021. Over 500 students, staff, AMIGO sponsors, and families joined the picnic this year. Pinales is with DLIELC’s Field Studies Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Spencer Berry)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- With adherence to safety guidelines and introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines, the Defense Language Institute English Language Center is starting to return to normal operations. Instructors are slowly transitioning back to in-person classrooms and International Military Students are becoming more commonplace in the schoolhouse halls.

Another sign of returning to regular operations was the return of the AMIGO picnic June 11, where more than 500 students, faculty, staff and AMIGO families came together for socialization, food, fun, and games. AMIGO stands for American Members of International Goodwill to Others. The 2020 picnic was canceled due to the pandemic, which made this year’s picnic even more special.

The picnic was hosted by the DLIELC Field Studies Program, a congressionally and Department of Defense-mandated program designed in part to foster goodwill between the United States and International Military Students.

"It was great seeing so many people come out for this event," said Col. Kouji Gillis, DLIELC commandant. "With such a large amount of time being physically apart from one another, it was a relief seeing people able to have fun face-to-face. I am proud of what everyone here has accomplished this past year. I am glad they are able to reap the benefits of their efforts."

The picnic is an opportunity for DLIELC to showcase AMIGOs, goodwill volunteers who help International Military Students learn about American culture and traditions. This program also provides opportunities for American families to learn more about other parts of the world. With DLIELC students hailing from over 100 different countries, there are many opportunities for knowledge exchange.

"Although it is a smaller event than usual it was important to get the AMIGOs back to the campus and have them meet students face-to-face. They have supported our program for the last 14 months virtually and never skipped a beat,” said Miconna Boaldin, DLIELC FSP chief. “The picnic is a way for not only students to meet AMIGOs but for staff to meet them as well. We all have one goal — helping students learn English — and this allows AMIGOs and teachers to interact and talk about what issues students may have and help each other help the students.”

One program objective is for students to visit an American home and experience typical family events.

"The AMIGOs haven’t been able to interact with students as they normally would. This was a great way to reopen that pipeline.” Gillis said. "We're always looking for new AMIGOs and can use more sponsors to show the American way of life. When our students go back to their home countries after their follow-on-training, we want to ensure they think fondly upon America and the people here."

To learn more about the AMIGO program visit: https://www.dlielc.edu/org/637ISS/amigo.php.

For more information or to sponsor a DLIELC student through the AMIGO program, call 210-671-7700.