JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Building leaders doesn’t happen by accident or in an instant, but at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, they are taking a deliberate approach to speed up the process by starting early.
After considerable effort and months of planning, the academy is postured to welcome their first students. Classes for the new international Airman Leadership School get underway Feb. 18, 2018.
Master Sgt. Amy Ferraro-Rodriguez, enlisted professional military education flight chief and director of education, said IAAFA was initially providing the noncommissioned officer academy curriculum, but has since shifted focus to start earlier in a member's career and mirror the process developed at home.
“Last year the United States Air Force announced that we were going to be transitioning into the intermediate leadership experience,” said Ferraro-Rodriguez.
IALS will mirror the Air Force’s ALS. Instructors will use the same curriculum, concepts and the same fundamental leadership concepts — but it will be taught completely in Spanish, she added.
“We are not just building our United States Air Force leaders — we are building international leaders,” Ferraro-Rodriguez said. “They’re already leaders, but we’re just helping them hone their own skills and putting more tools in their toolbox.”
With these new tools come a different target audience for IAAFA’s attendees. Master Sgt. Aguevo Mendez-Echevarria, EPME director of operations, said teaching leadership skills sooner benefits everyone.
“Let’s start talking to and start training and teaching and developing these conversations at an earlier stage in their careers,” he said.
By providing the solution tools to the younger population and creating leaders at an earlier stage, students will have the ability to interact with senior leaders in a productive manner and share the fruits of their experiences.
Mendez-Echevarria is ready to instill important guidelines for each student’s success.
The first one is respect.
“This is the foundational element to any good professional,” he said.
Next, he wants students to transition their focus.
“People that we develop are the people that are going to carry the force into the future,” said Mendez-Echevarria. "The goal of IALS is to start developing leaders now that will develop the next generation of leaders."
Lastly, he said it is all about keeping things in perspective — remembering family.
“It is all about balance; and the sooner you start creating a balance between you career goals and your family life, the better,” he said.
These are conversations Mendez-Echevarria is ready to have with his IALS students on day one.
IALS is an eight-week course scheduled to be taught at IAAFA campus: three cycles a year, consisting of two flights each. That includes approximately 24 to 28 students per cycle of international and Air Force students. Mobile training will also be offered in partner nations in the Western Hemisphere.
The new school is accredited as U.S. Air Force PME. It prepares military personnel to overcome the challenges imposed by career progression, higher responsibility, and the exercising of leadership roles, according to their website. International graduates of the IALS receive both the IAAFA wings and IAAFA PME shield.
The new course is also open to active duty personnel, reservists and international police.
Graduates will have mastered new techniques for problem solving, creative thinking, analysis and team building.
Students will have an opportunity to interact and experience the diversity and rich culture that exists within the United States and the Western Hemisphere.
“The IAAFA difference is that we provide a platform where officers and enlisted can work together in leader-related exercises and leadership-related discussions,” said Mendez-Echevarria.