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JBSA hosts 4th annual Western Hemisphere Exchange Symposium

By Staff Sgt. Krystal Wright | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | July 3, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy welcomed foreign mission partners for the 4th annual Western Hemisphere Exchange Symposium at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland May 19-24.

Delegates from 17 countries attended the WHES, which is an international exchange on how various countries respond to crisis and regional challenges.

“We, as the Air Force, deliver Airmen to combatant commanders,” said Col. Isaac Davidson, IAAFA commandant. “Our partner nations also do the same. Ideally, we want to be inter-operable: operate on a professional level that is common to our partner nations and to us. A learning institution like IAAFA offers, what I call, the bedrock for that to take place. That is the essence of why we do this event.”

In attendance were representatives from Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Guyana. Leaders from Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay were also represented.

There were also numerous U.S. representatives to include senior leaders from U.S. Southern and Northern Commands and their subordinate units. There were representatives from Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, System of Cooperation among the American Air Forces, and Defense Security Cooperation Agency along with other agencies. In addition, members of City of San Antonio and Bexar County participated.

The academy’s mission is to strength international relationships through education and training while promoting peace, democratic values and respect for human rights in the western hemisphere, according to IAAFA’s webpage at  https://www.37trw.af.mil/Units/Inter-American-Air-Forces-Academy/.

The symposium directly relates to those goals and helps further accomplishes that mission.

“IAAFA is charged with building and strengthening partnerships,” Davidson said. “This symposium gives an opportunity to strengthen those friendships and as a result, start building a relationship where one is learning from the other. We are learning from [each other] things we can go back and execute together to counter threats against our nations

The WHES shared best practices and lessons learned in areas like aircraft maintenance and sustainment; drug control operations; airspace command and control; humanitarian assistance; and disaster relief.

“What we are looking to do here is record and analyze those practices and lessons, and to take a look at our capability delivering mechanism to help close gaps with our partner nations,” Davidson said.

The academy provides professional military education and training to foreign mission partners’ police and military forces. They use the information and dialogue provided during the symposiums to further improve and refine their curriculum.

“We are looking at delivering capabilities that are important to our partner nations and to us,” Davidson said. “This symposium is a major shift toward that. It allows us to put in front of us goals and objectives, and then measure how we get to them and how effective we get to them.”

“We want to be a hub of strategic thinking and learning,” Davidson said.