News Stories

‘Friends from around the world’

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Manuel Tiscareno | Defense Information School | May 16, 2016

FORT MEADE, Md. --

In 2001, when Nadejda Mocan was 11, her father – an officer in the Moldovan army – was a student at the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

That Sept. 11, she saw the news reports about the devastation caused by the terror attacks in New York and Washington.

“I realized what a huge impact this would have on the U.S. as a nation,” said Mocan, now a second lieutenant in the Moldovan army and a recent graduate of the Public Affairs Qualification Course at the Defense Information School on Fort Meade.

“I remember that shock, the pain that everybody was feeling around us,” she said. “I was a child then, but I could still understand.”

In a sense, Mocan’s presence at DINFOS was an expression of her family’s continued affection and regard for the United States.

On Fort Leavenworth, the spouses of the international students felt the need to commemorate the victims of 9/11 and to express their condolences to the American people, she said.

To do that, “They decided to quilt a blanket.”

The spouses prepared small patches that included their countries’ flags. Some included their names.

When all the patches were ready, they assembled them into a quilt and sent it to Washington, she said.

After a year in Kansas, Mocan’s family returned to Moldova, where she eventually enrolled in college and signed up for ROTC. Tying her interest in the military to an interest in journalism, she became a public affairs officer.

It was a good choice, she said.

“It is interesting because you get to meet a lot of people,” she said. “I like talking to people and learning new things.”

Mocan, who is assigned to the Moldova’s 22nd Peacekeeping Battalion, arrived at DINFOS in March to attend the Public Affairs Qualification Course. She graduated May 13.

Merely being selected for the course was an accomplishment, said Rivers J. Johnson Jr., the director of the International Military Student Office at DINFOS.

“She’s a very smart young lady – and competitive,” Johnson said. “I think she’s an adventurous person who also wants to learn as much as she can about the American culture.”

Students in the three-month course study the foundations of public affairs, principles of communication and crisis communication, among other topics.

“This is a great course for those who want to excel in this field,” Mocan said.

Just as important, she said, were the friends she made.

“I’m going to be missing my colleagues,” Mocan said. “I’m going to be keeping up with them, but I will be missing them.”

On the bright side, she expects to work with many of them again someday.

“We are a big family in the military but especially in public affairs,” she said. “We truly are all friends from around the world.”

Mocan expressed particular thanks to the staff of the International Military Student Office – Johnson and his assistant, Army Staff Sgt. Jason Olivencia.

“If you call DINFOS a house, they are the ones that make DINFOS cozy,” she said. “They are helping you out and taking care of you.”

During Mocan’s time in the Public Affairs Qualification Course, the office organized a trip to New York where visiting students saw the Freedom Tower, which replaced the towers destroyed on 9/11.

In 2015, when Mocan was a student in the Public Affairs Course for International Students, she and others toured the Pentagon.

There, Mocan looked for the quilt from Fort Leavenworth.

“I knew specifically that there was one that my mother made, and I found it,” she said.

Known as the International Friendship Quilt, it was on display with others on the first floor of the Pentagon.

“I’m just grateful and thankful to come back to DINFOS and experience it one more time,” Mocan said.