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Home : News : News
NEWS | Sept. 12, 2013

Inter-American Air Forces Academy programs seek volunteers

By Mike Joseph Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Public Affairs

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy here needs volunteers for its Amistad and field study programs.

IAAFA conducts courses in Spanish for nearly 1,000 students a year from the armed forces and governmental agencies of up to 21 Latin American countries. The courses range from aircraft maintenance to professional development, and the academy's goal is to bring countries from the Western Hemisphere together in order to promote "Inter-Americanism."

The volunteers would serve as sponsors in its Amistad - Spanish for friendship - program or as escorts for the field study program.

"Both programs continue IAAFA's mission to foster enduring Inter-American engagement through education and training while building partnerships for tomorrow," said Tech. Sgt. Sue Hemgesberg, Amistad program manager.

The Amistad sponsor program's goal is to make the transition for the international students as seamless as possible. Sponsors share time and activities with the international students to help acquaint them with American family and society, goals and ways of life in general.

The impression made by the sponsor is greater than any description of Americans the student could study.

"As a sponsor, we only ask you host them at least once a month," Hemgesberg said. "All you need is a willingness to share your way of life with an international student.

"Our students want to feel like we're welcoming them by including them to the family," she said. "That's very important in the Latin American culture."

The field study program takes international students on one-day trips to area places of governmental or social interest, such as NASA in Houston or the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, to further their understanding of American values and cultural diversity.

"IAAFA takes care of all the meals and transportation. It's a great experience," said Tech. Sgt. Roberto Vasquez, field study program coordinator.

The field study program meets Congressional requirements on exposing IAAFA's international military students to the American democratic process. The goal is for the students to return home with a better understanding of the U.S. government, militaries, and citizens to protect, preserve and respect the rights of every individual.

"The main difference between the two programs is that the field study trips are conducted during academic hours vs. the Amistad program, which is done after duty hours," said Vasquez. "Our volunteers must be able to clearly communicate in Spanish, over 18 years old, and be able to translate on the spot."

Both programs are open to active duty, Reserve or retired military members, Department of Defense civilian personnel, U.S. citizens and legal residents. All volunteers are subject to background investigations by Air Force Security Forces.

Fluent Spanish is required for the field study program, but not for the Amistad program. However, Spanish is preferred for volunteers since IAAFA students generally do not speak English.

"We would love to have as many sponsors as students," Hemgesberg said.

"For our 200 plus students (a normal IAAFA class) this is there first time in the U.S.," Vasquez said. "Without these programs, our students will not have the opportunity to experience our culture. For this we really need the community to be involved."

To introduce students and volunteers to the Amistad and field study programs, IAAFA will host an Amistad mixer at 6 p.m., Sept. 27, in the IAAFA Training Center auditorium.

For additional information about the Amistad program, the field study program or to make reservations for the mixer, contact Hemgesberg or Vasquez at 671-4406.