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JBSA News
NEWS | June 7, 2007

IAAFA to take on additional roles in '08

By Lilly Flores-Janecek 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy, based at Lackland, has trained foreign military and police from Latin America in Spanish since its inception in 1943. Soon it will be offering similar technical courses to Caribbean countries, but in English.

"We want to reach out now to our Caribbean friends and start to build those relationships," said Col. Boomer Henry, former commandant for IAAFA. "We will take courses that have already been approved and offer them in this environment to our Caribbean friends. By reaching out, we expect to form a better mutual understanding of our militaries resulting in more amicable relationships in the long term."

The first English classes will be offered in March 2008. The number of students will ramp up over the next few years as relationships are nurtured and the curriculum tailored to meet the needs of the Caribbean partners.

In addition, Spanish-language training will continue for both officer and enlisted personnel in a variety of Professional Military Education and technical training courses. These courses include aircraft systems, aircraft/helicopter maintenance, electronics, communications, intelligence, supply, logistics, air base ground defense, security, pilot instruction procedures, computer resources and information systems management.

Separately, IAAFA staff is developing six new courses to add to its current 31 active courses and a mobile training team program. These new courses will include various safety courses.

The courses vary in length from two to 12 weeks with instruction in academic theory and hands-on training, a hallmark of the academy's curriculum. The training takes place at Lackland, Kelly Field Annex and Camp Bullis.

IAAFA is older than the Air Force. Formerly known as the "Central and South American Air School," IAFFA was founded 64 years ago at the request of Peru's Minister of Aeronautics, Gen. Fernando Melgar.

"We have a long and distinguished career of training a lot of different kinds of people in a lot of different activities," said Colonel Henry. "And the reason we do this is because we're trying to build what we call enduring engagement with the future decision makers of the Americas. We're trying to get the future leaders of the Americas together early and often throughout their careers so they can build the kind of relationships that lead to a common understanding. That is the magic of IAAFA."

Today the academy averages approximately 600 students annually from 21 Central and South American countries, but this number is projected to grow as the academy's popularity is now expanding.

The success of IAAFA's mission has reached objectives at the Departments of State and Defense. Among the most recognizable contributions credited to the academy are its 35,000 graduated students, which include leaders like Gen. Carlos Antelo, chief of staff of the Bolivian Armed Forces, and Gen. Raul Acosta, commander of the Personnel and Training Command of the Argentine Air Force.

Currently, the staff consists of 107 Spanish-speaking Air Force military and civilian instructors, and a support staff which includes eight guest instructors from El Salvador, Ecuador, Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia.

"I chose to come here. I knew of IAAFA and I knew it was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish and be able to give back to the Latin American community," said Sgt. Cesar Rocha, IAAFA instructor. "It has been a pleasure to teach Latin American students."

In addition to instructing students in various courses, IAAFA is also committed to exposing students to the American lifestyle. They visit local and state offices, museums, historical landmarks and other points of interest.

"We give them a crash course on Americanism," said Staff Sgt. Orlando Garza, IAAFA international student manager.

As an ISM, Sergeant Garza is assigned an average of 300 students to greet at the airport and assist throughout their stay at Lackland. He says that about 90 percent of the students do not speak English so his primary role is as a translator.

"Most of the students have never been to the United States or interacted with Americans," said Sergeant Garza. "We are basically ambassadors of (IAFFA) and the USAF. It's a unique assignment and very rewarding."

IAAFA is a special place with a specialized mission. The organization has evolved over the years to meet current day demands, but the mission and people have remained steadfast and refreshing.

With the addition of courses, IAAFA's manpower managers are looking for additional staff. If interested in applying for this special assignment, contact Master Sgt. Samuel Nunez at 671-0795.