LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
There is a common bond between the new Inter-American Air Forces Academy commandant and his predecessor: both proclaim commanding the academy is "the best job in the Air Force."
Col. Carl Hunter, the new IAAFA commander, and Col. Maria Cordero, whom he succeeded on July 28, both used those exact words when assessing the assignment.
"I'm proud to be their commander, and I'm fortunate to have this job," Colonel Hunter said. "I think I've got the best job in the Air Force.
"Being allowed to command this academy is fantastic. It's going to be a rewarding experience. It's my last two years in the Air Force and a great opportunity."
Colonel Hunter began his career as a C-130 navigator in 1983, achieving Master Navigator status with more than 5,000 flight hours in the C-130E. He will retire in 2012 after his IAAFA assignment ends 30 years of service.
It's fitting that his career concludes with a foreign mission as more than half of his service time has been spent in foreign countries.
And that's the way it began.
"My first day at Pope (Air Force Base, N.C.), my first mission on a C-130E was the Grenada invasion, moving medical students from there to Barbados," Colonel Hunter said, reflecting back on the 1983 event. "It was a rewarding career in the flying arena; I really enjoyed it."
Prior to joining IAAFA, Colonel Hunter was 12th Air Force chief of staff, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., after spending three years as Air Force Mission chief in Bogota, Columbia.
Those five years spent in Air Forces Southern helped pave the road to IAAFA.
"I feel a close connection to IAAFA from my years in Colombia," he said. "Colombia sends a majority of the students to IAAFA, and I stayed connected through the 12th Air Force."
Though it's been a whirlwind of activity since taking command, Colonel Hunter has set a goal of making IAAFA a better educational experience and learning academy for its students.
To achieve that goal, the academy will concentrate on upgrades to keep pace with its partner nations.
"The air forces from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean are transforming and modernizing," Colonel Hunter said. "That requires us to upgrade our training aids and mock ups. We're trying to modernize to keep up with the 22 air forces from the countries we teach."
A new classroom and maintenance facility currently under construction on the IAAFA campus, expected to be completed in January 2011, will provide an improved and more efficient teaching atmosphere along with consolidating facilities into a common area.
"It's on us to keep our instructors current, along with the equipment, in meeting our students' needs and demands," Colonel Hunter said. "We're always looking for ways to improve procedures, techniques and internally.
"Taking care of the people at IAAFA, not only our staff but the students, is important. I look forward to this opportunity to move IAAFA ahead and make it better for the person who takes my place."