Up-and-coming military leaders from around the world were in Detroit last week as part of a fact-finding field trip to learn about the U.S. auto industry.
The 38 foreign military officers are students in a year-long international fellowship at the National Defense University in Washington where they are groomed for command positions back home.
Among the group was a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, a French fighter pilot who has escorted French President Jacques Chirac, a Saudi prince and a two-star general from Taiwan who wanted to know about my experiences at the auto show in Shanghai because he can't go there.
In Washington, the fellows end up in one of two academic programs. The National War College offers a master's degree in National Security Strategy while the Industrial College of the Armed Forces offers a master's degree in National Resource Strategy.
It's designed to make sure that leaders in other countries understand the strategic thinking, planning and needs of the United States. It also strengthens their personal bonds with America.
When Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he admonished the program to show the foreign military leaders the real America, warts and all.
Obviously, Detroit doesn't have any warts, so in keeping with Powell's directive, the group also took field trips to Montana, Tennessee, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois and California.
At events sponsored separately by General Motors and Ford, the group met with senior industry officials and toured local facilities, including assembly plants in Flat Rock, Dearborn and Lansing.
So now Detroit will have friends in high places, too.
What was the best part of the trip to Detroit? Several of the visitors told me it was seeing modern factories build Cadillacs and Mustangs.
Hey, whatever it takes.
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