Photo: Inter-American Air Force Academy
Established in 1943, the Inter-American Air Force Academy (IAAFA) was opened at Albrook Air Station, Panama to train Peruvian cadets. Though it has changed locations twice since then, the academy allows Air Force personnel to train officers and enlisted service members from Central and South American countries.
At any given time, the IAAFA’s 240 students, from as many as 22 countries, are enrolled in 37 professional military education and technical courses – each class taught in Spanish.
Lt. Col. Reyes Colon, commandant of IAAFA, and other officials see the academy a way to establish relationships with foreign air forces.
“Building partnerships, that’s what we’re all about. We get these countries together through education and training,” said Colon. “By getting them together in a classroom, you’re breaking down barriers. The uniformed service member usually doesn’t bring that political baggage with them. They’re apolitical.”
A small number of U.S. airmen attend IAAFA as well.
“These airmen get first-hand knowledge of our partner nations’ military, political and cultural issues that affect our inter-American relationships,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy told the Air Force Times. “These partnerships provide our airmen experiences that they can use throughout their Air Force careers.”
This August, about a dozen U.S. captains are scheduled to graduate from the Inter-American Squadron Officer School (ISOS), though 56 applied to attend. As for those enlisted, six U.S. airmen will complete the Inter-American Noncommissioned Officer Academy (INCOA) this year. Two finished in March, two will graduate in August, and two more with finish their work in December.
Unlike for ISOS, enlisted airmen do not have to apply for INCOA; they are selected. However, each must be proficient in Spanish, and have a degree from the Community College of the Air Force.
“In a perfect world, IAAFA would grow,” said Maj. Jorge Nunez, the training operations flight commander. “That’s what’s going to build partnerships. That’s what’s going to keep them coming back.”
In September, the IAAFA will move into a new $20 million complex on Lackland Air Force base which houses all IAAFA operations currently at Kelly Field which is near Lackland in Texas.