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JBSA News
NEWS | April 3, 2023

80 things you didn’t know about IAAFA

By Vanessa Adame 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy celebrated its 80th Anniversary March 15.  IAAFA’s history goes back to 1943 when it was established as the Central and South American Air School at the request of General Fernando Melgar, Peru’s minister of Aeronautics.

The school offered the first aeronautics training in Latin America. In the 1940s and ’50s, enrollment increased to approximately 400 students per year.

Today, the academy offers more than 30 courses to international students across 23 partner nations in professional education, operations and support training; and aircraft and systems training. In celebration of its 80-year history, here are 80 facts about IAAFA:

  1. IAAFA teaches 32 courses in Spanish.
  2. IAAFA originated in Albrook Air Station in Panama in 1943.
  3. Women, Peace, and Security was implemented into IAAFA’s curriculum in July 2022.
  4. IAAFA was known as Latin American School and Central and South American Air school before it became the Inter-American Air Forces Academy.
  5. In 2007, Col. Maria Cordero became the first female to occupy the role of the commandant of the Inter-American Air Forces Academy.
  6. IAAFA’s wings are highly recognized in Latin America.
  7. IAAFA welcomed its first two female instructors in 1976, both were assigned to the Maintenance Accessory Department.
  8. Approximately 300 students from 11 countries graduated from IAAFA between 1943 and 1946.
  9. IAAFA held several unofficial names in its early days including Aircraft and Radio Mechanic School, Panama Air Depot as well as the Latin American Training School.
  10. One officer and 10 enlisted members were the first to be trained in the Engineering Shop in what is now known as IAAFA.
  11. International instructors, called Partner Nation Guest Instructors, are included in IAAFA’s cadre.
  12. In 2022, IAAFA was commissioned to offer a mobile training team to the Pacific Air Forces.
  13. At 80 years old, IAAFA is older than the U.S. Air Force.
  14. Albrook Air Station and Homestead, AFB were both home to IAAFA, at different points.
  15. A former two-time IAAFA graduate recently became commander of the Paraguayan Air Force.
  16. Approximately 53,000 students from 23 partner nations and the U.S. have graduated from IAAFA since it originated in 1943.
  17. The academy’s cadre is made up of U.S. Air Force and partner nation guest instructors.
  18. In January 1993, IAAFA opened its doors at JBSA-Lackland, Texas, just 100 days after its relocation from Homestead Air Force Base, Florida.
  19. IAAFA uses simulators to enhance instruction in the classroom to include flight simulators, forklift simulators, paint simulators, a simulator in aircraft maintenance officer course and a virtual reality simulator used to teach security forces courses.
  20. Students enrolled in IAAFA courses participate in the Field Studies Program to give International Military Students a balanced view of the American way of life.
  21. In 1952, the commandant established the format for today’s academy, emphasizing hands-on training, adding officer courses and creating a student support section responsible for military and physical instruction and U.S. cultural awareness.
  22. The U.S. Security Cooperation Office in the U.S. Military Groups and host governments select students to attend IAAFA’s courses.
  23. In September of 1989, IAAFA closed its doors at Albrook, Air Field Station in Panama, and moved to Homestead, AFB in Florida.
  24. IAAFA’s Sports Day is held once each academic cycle, where students compete in a physical fitness exam and a variety of sports.
  25. In 2022, IAAFA added the Inter-American Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Course.
  26. International Military Students earn a certificate of training and the IAAFA wings after successful completion of IAAFA courses.
  27. IAAFA is the only institution in the Air Force to offer all three levels of Enlisted Professional Military Education.
  28. IAAFA offers courses in professional military education, technical training and aircrew courses.
  29. IAAFA’s mobile simulators, such as the paint simulator and security forces virtual simulator, allow instructors to travel to partner nation countries to provide mobile training teams.
  30. Project X, a leadership reaction course complex, on Chapman Annex, is used by International Professional Military Education to apply leadership theory learned in the classroom and to navigate and complete the obstacle course.
  31. The collaboration between SAF/IA, IAAFA, and partner nations, provides a flexible education and training tool to deliver relevant and current curriculum to students and is an important mechanism to reinforce security cooperation and shared goals between the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere.
  32. Volunteers from around JBSA-Lackland renovated Project X in the fall of 2022, saving approximately $20,000 by conducting the work themselves.
  33. Women, Peace, and Security program for USAF and international military students includes cadre development, 12 hours of student instruction, an implicit association test, and an end-of-course survey.
  34.  In 2015, Lt. Col. Maria Tejeda Quintana, from the Dominican Republic, became the first female guest instructor pilot in the history of the Academy.
  35. Commodore Anibal Leiva, of the Argentinian Air Force, served as IAAFA’s Deputy Commandant and flight instructor from 2019 to 2021. Soon after returning to his country, Leiva became the wing commander of the largest air base.
  36. IAAFA’s PNGI program is authorized through bilateral agreements between the Office of the Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, and each of the participating partner nations.
  37. IAAFA offers PME to international military students from Partner Nations and USAF members all in Spanish.
  38. The International Student Support oversees the well-being of all international students from their arrival to the academy, until they depart, usually the day after graduation.
  39. The IAAFA Airfield Training Complex opened in 2012. The complex was designed to follow the progression of the courses, beginning with the classroom to the lab, and then the hangar.
  40. IAAFA’s Squadron Officer School is equivalent to the Squadron Officer School offered by Air University at Maxwell, AFB.
  41. In 2015, Senior Master Sgt. Diana Maria Velasco Marin, became the first Latin American Colombian Female to graduate from the MTI Training Course Graduate.
  42. Pilot Instrument Procedures Course, Materiel Management, International Logistics and the Inter-American Squadron Officer Course are some of the most in-demand courses at IAAFA.
  43. IAAFA currently has 14 Partner Nation Guest Instructors.
  44. IAAFA opened its door at JBSA in January 1997.
  45. The Brazilian Air Force sends its members to learn Spanish before sending them to courses at IAAFA.
  46. IAAFA instructors conduct mobile training teams to teach students from Partner Nations, which provide an added advantage to reaching students who don’t normally travel to the U.S.
  47. IAAFA recently added a modular training shoot house to its resources that can be easily moved and reconfigured into different layouts.
  48. IAAFA offers three training cycles per year.
  49. The A-29 Super Tucano will be implemented into the Pilot Instrument Procedures Course curriculum this academic year.
  50. IAAFA’s Ground Defense Leadership Course in C-cycle 2022 had the highest rate of female students in at least five years.
  51. IAAFA’s Structure and Corrosion courses spend students spend four weeks in the classroom and train on the paint simulator for the last two weeks of the course.
  52. IAAFA leaders quickly adjusted to offer a virtual learning environment for students at the height of COVID to complete the remainder of the training cycle.
  53. Students from Latin American partner nations sit in classes together next to one another, helping to reinforce interoperability.
  54. In 2001, a delegation from Egyptian Armed Forces visited IAAFA as part of a partnership with the Texas National Guard.
  55. IAAFA hosts dozens of visits each year with community partners, partner nations, Air Force leaders and other military forces.
  56. IAAFA hosted the Jamaican Defence Force last year for a maintenance engagement conducted with the 12th Air Force.
  57. IAAFA’s Enlisted Professional Military Education mission earned the top award of AF Enlisted Professional Military Center twice in three years.
  58. Approximately 30% of the ISR Fundamentals Course was recently updated to target fundamentals, space operations, collection management and critical thinking.
  59. IAAFA’s 79th Anniversary coincided with the unveiling of a heritage wall to commemorate its history.
  60. The IAAFA wings, which represent a symbol IAAFA’s symbol of security cooperation, were recently approved for eligible Air Force members to wear on their uniforms.
  61. Mateo Gonzalez, an instructor at the 318th Training Squadron, has documented IAAFA’s history for approximately 10 years.
  62. IAAFA’s Culture Night is one of the most popular events among students at IAAFA.
  63. Photos of IAAFA’s historical events make up much of the heritage wall.
  64. Col. Mario Adorno of the Paraguayan Air Force serves as IAAFA’s International Deputy Commandant.
  65. Operacion Jaguar is a capstone exercise that combines training objectives with four courses while operating in a deployed environment.
  66. IAAFA’s mission provides military education and training to military personnel of the Americas and other partner nation objectives.
  67. IAAFA acquired an Army UH-1H helicopter, used as a training tool, in 2012.
  68. IAAFA’s Security Forces instructors are often selected to attend the Army Jungle Operations Course.  
  69. IAAFA’s mobile paint simulator helps teach proper painting techniques, without wasting a drop of paint.
  70. IAAFA’s graduation ceremonies and banquets are often conducted in one day, following an hours-long immersion of the academy from visiting partners.
  71. One of IAAFA’s original hangars in Panama is still marked with the IAAFA name today, although it is no longer a part of the institution.
  72. More than 160 U.S. students/military members have graduated from IAAFA since 2018.
  73. IAAFA’s Inter-American Squadron Officer Course, offered in Spanish, is an eight-week course, with full accreditation from Air University.
  74. IAAFA’s courses are also available to civilians from Partner Nations who qualify.
  75. IAAFA’s Academic Achievement Award is presented to one officer and one enlisted member, who maintain the highest overall academic average among all eligible students.
  76. Students at IAAFA conduct physical training to support the demanding missions of all students and cadre.
  77. A new Defensive Cyber Operations course is projected for 2024.
  78. Subject Matter Expert Exchanges, conferences, and training assessments are executed with U.S. and Partner Nation members.
  79. In-Residence Training is IAAFA’s primary mission.
  80.  IAAFA’s wings include the IAAFA emblem, a lamp of knowledge, and clasped hands as a symbol of union.