JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
One part of the Inter-American Air Forces Academy's vision statement is "building partnerships for tomorrow."
Four recent graduates of the IAAFA International Squadron Officers School Professional Military Education course all agree that they built partnerships, along with friendships, during their eight weeks here at the IAAFA campus.
"What we really take away from this course is friendship," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dayvid Prahl, assigned to the 413th Flight Test Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. "The leadership training is useful and applicable, but I really think what will be the lasting result from attending this course will be the friendships we formed."
The all-Spanish PME course is designed for Latin American military and U.S. Air Force captains to enhance their management and leadership skills. Enrollment for U.S. captains is limited to eight per session who are fluent in Spanish. The course is offered three times a year at IAAFA and has full Air University accreditation.
Throughout the course, students experience hundreds of hours of military-to-military engagement that will help build and strengthen partner nation cooperation among Latin American and U.S. Armed Forces.
Capt. Carlos Monroy, a Colombian air force internal control officer, agreed with his U.S. counterpart Prahl on the friendships that are built.
"I definitely think along the lines that we have made friends, we have made brothers," said Monroy through an interpreter. "We're taking home more with us than we're leaving here. The relationships and partnerships, that's what we're taking back."
Capt. Daniel Yapor, a Dominican air force A-29B pilot, called his attendance one of the best experiences in his life.
"I had the opportunity to make a lot of friends from different countries like the United States, Peru, Guatemala and others," Yapor said. "I had friends (from the Dominican Republic) who have come here for the course. They told me about it, but it's not the same (as being here).
"Now I see leadership in a totally different way," he said. "My friends (I made here), my brothers, they changed my mind about the way I think about leadership. This experience is unique and a great opportunity for an officer."
Prahl said the course provides a unique opportunity to work alongside Latin American partner nation personnel while also giving U.S. Air Force students different leadership viewpoints.
"In the leadership training you receive, you also get the perspective from your Latin American comrades on how policies in their air forces affect them," Prahl said. "You can see the differences and similarities between their policies and ours."
Both Yapor and Monroy said IAAFA instructors helped expand their views on leadership.
"You have people from different countries that use different ways to (accomplish) the same thing," the Dominican Republic pilot said. "It expands your thinking."
"It changed the perspective I had about learning," Monroy added. "IAAFA is developing the future leaders of Latin America."
For U.S. Air Force Capt. Lacey Thompson, the PME course had multiple benefits, which included the San Antonio native being home for two months.
"This is 100 percent the best course I've ever taken," said Thompson, a five-year veteran who is assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom. "And I loved being home.
"The takeaway is (enhancing my) inter-cultural communication skills because I work for NATO," she said. "What I've learned here is how to build a relationship with people from different backgrounds, different experiences and different languages. I think it's going to help me tremendously in being able to establish a rapport with partner nation personnel."
Yapor said "the (IAAFA) mission was accomplished," and Monroy added, "100 percent."
"All of us are now ambassadors of what we've been taught, and we're going to spread the word," Monroy said.