JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas —
The Inter-American Air Force Academy has fostered positive international relationships with Latin American countries for quite some time, but their latest alliance is making history right in front of them at Joint Base San Antronio-Lackland.
Airman 1st Class Cassandra Aguero, member of the 802nd Security Forces Squadron at JBSA-Lackland, became the first student from the United States to enroll in the Ground Defense Leadership course at IAAFA.
“I knew that I was going to be working with foreign nationals so I wanted to basically expand my horizons,” Aguero said. “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone to become a well-rounded defender.”
Last year, IAAFA conducted a joint exercise with Combat Leaders Course members from the 343rd Training Squadron. After the exercise, IAAFA reached out to the 802nd SFS for potential candidates.
“We had thought about it for a couple of months. We wanted to get some Air Force members to come to our course,” said Staff Sgt. Alejandra Aylett Gill, 37th TRW IAAFA instructor.
A native of El Paso, Aguero grew up understanding Spanish, but never really had the opportunity to speak it much. That all changed on the first day of class.
“As soon as I walked in I noticed I was obviously the only American in the lobby and all my teammates I’m working with now welcomed me with a ‘good morning’ in Spanish,” Aguero said.
Some of the objectives of the course include tactical movements, patrolling, weapons manipulation and building clearing. Students are stripped of their rank through the course and are taught how to be a squad or team leader in real world scenarios.
Aguero found herself immersed in that scenario quickly. She became a squad leader during one of the early weeks of the course and got that hands on feeling alongside her international colleagues.
“When you’re under a lot of stress in a situation like that, you kind of freeze a little bit,” Gill said. “We put them under that stress so they can make those split second decisions so they can move and maneuver their team.”
IAAFA is ready to enroll more Americans into their courses.
“We are hoping more defenders come through our courses,” Gill said. “We’re trying to build those partnerships. We have to build a more lethal force and going through this course is doing that.”
Aguero will share what she has learned with her fellow defenders and hopes her ties with IAAFA are just beginning, she said.
“For me to be representing our country is very humbling and I am grateful to have gotten to be the first one to do that,” Aguero said. “For the future I would like to eventually go back to IAAFA and become an instructor."