Air & Space Power Journal - Español Tercer Trimestre 2005
Lt Col José A. Sánchez, and Maj S. David Spoon, USAF
The IAAFA Mission:
To train and educate Latin American
forces in Spanish in support of
Through its various incarnations and in various locations, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA) has endeavored to fulfill this mission, whether located in the Panama Canal Zone, at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, or in its present facilities at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. A key component in meeting that mission comes through promoting inter-Americanism, with an eye toward interoperability and hemispheric stability. In this article, we take a brief look at IAAFA’s history, its present state, and what the future holds for both the academy and the Americas, especially in the area of professional military education.
The idea of the institution that eventually became the Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA) had its genesis in 1939. The commanding general of the Department of the Panama Canal began a program of courtesy visits wherein military representatives from throughout Latin America would visit the Canal Zone. The purpose of such visits was to reduce the "feeling of fear and mistrust" that many Latin Americans had toward the United States, especially in military matters, through promoting mutual understanding, good will, and hemispheric solidarity.
Founded 15 March 1943 during the height of the Second World War, IAAFA predates the establishment of the U.S. Air Force itself. Initially known as the "Central and South American Air School" and a little later on as "United States Air Force School for Latin America," the academy’s establishment stemmed from a request by the Peruvian Minister of Aeronautics, General Fernando Melgar, and began with training 11 Peruvian students (1 officer and 10 enlisted) at Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone, making it the first aviation training conducted by the United States in Latin America (LATAM). By the end of June 1943, the academy’s curriculum had expanded to five six-week courses (Radiocomunicación aérea, armero de avión, mantenimiento de teletipo, mantenimiento de miras de bombardeo, mantenimiento de las torretas de mando mecánico).
IAAFA First Class, March 15, 1943, Albrook AFS, Panama
By August of 1944, two things were apparent. Six weeks was simply not a sufficient amount of time when teaching technical aviation subjects, and the academy’s students had a much more limited knowledge of the English language than had first been realized. Language difficulties threatened to dissolve the advantages to be gained from the school’s apprentice-based instructional approach, so it employed bilingual civilian instructors and added bilingual military instructors by the end of the year.
The academy continued to evolve and grow through the end of World War II. But the end of the War, demobilization, and personnel reductions led to a suspension of the school’s activities on 26 January 1946. But that suspension was short-lived. Latin American air forces protested the suspension of training, saying that their forces were dependent upon the training the school provided. Furthermore, they felt that the US-provided training was as essential to hemispheric defense during times of peace as during wartime. The Escuela Latinoamericana reopened its doors 3 March 1947, with students from Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru, and the doors have remained open ever since.
During the 1960s, IAAFA fully supported President Kennedy’s "Alliance for Progress" emphasis on collective hemispheric security by teaching courses in air operations, aircraft maintenance, medical civic action, and communications, using the same apprentice, specialization, and supervisory levels used in the USAF. Through the use of aircraft like the F-86, IAAFA assisted Latin America in the modernization of its air forces. In 1962, IAAFA introduced its popular (and enduring) guest instructor program to increase the interface between US and Latin American military personnel. This program has greatly enhanced and enriched the quality of instruction, methods of instruction, and the culture of IAAFA as an educational and training institution. It was also during this time that the academy introduced Mobile Training Teams (MTTs), providing critical, on-site training at bases in Latin America. IAAFA’s MTTs also serve to provide advice and identify training requirements.
IAAFA expanded and changed through the first years of the Cold War, eventually training nearly 400 students per year. During the early years of the Cold War, the academy and its curriculum changed and adapted to the needs of the time, focusing on the maintenance of hemispheric cooperation and defense against the threat of communism. The Nixon Doctrine, a result of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, viewed arms transfers and associated military training as a way to contain Communist influence, through the arming of friendly nations. However, after the military overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, many in and out of the U.S. government began to view these activities as contributing to the repression of Latin American societies by their militaries. Consequently, in 1977, President Carter reversed the earlier Nixon Doctrine, requiring that U.S. assistance be not only governed by the security interests of the United States, but also that such assistance be tied to the "human rights records of the recipient governments."
Following the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency there was a reversal of President Carter’s restrictions. Arms transfers and military training dollars once again began to flow to Latin America, especially Central America, in an effort to stabilize governments there.
An example of the academy’s importance with regard to hemispheric stability is seen when looking at its role during El Salvador’s civil war (1980-1992). At the beginning of that conflict, the Salvadoran Air Force (FAS) was equipped with a variety of obsolete aircraft, among them 11 Ouragan ground attack fighters which had been acquired third-hand from the French, via the Israelis. In a 1998 article, "The Air War in El Salvador," Dr. James Corum noted that this situation was altered in January 1982, when rebel forces from the Faribundo Martí National Liberation Front (known by its Spanish acronym, FMLN) launched a "well-planned and executed operation," which decimated the nation’s combat air power. But, Dr. Corum added, the attack was actually "something of a mixed blessing for the FAS in the long term." The U.S. government "quickly replaced" the "worn-out Ouragans" with A-37s, "a far more capable and suitable aircraft for a counterinsurgency war." The newer combat aircraft were augmented by O-2 reconnaissance aircraft and UH-1 helicopters, all of which added significantly to the Salvadoran government’s war fighting capabilities and helped turn the tide in the government’s favor. IAAFA provided essential support to this effort by helping to train Salvadoran forces in the maintenance of these newer aircraft.
IAAFA benefited from renewed regional interest in the training it could provide, training an average of 850 students a year. As a result of the departure of U.S. military facilities from Panama, IAAFA closed its doors at Albrook Air Force Station, Panama on 30 September 1989, moving its operations to Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. The academy reopened 100 days later, on 9 January 1990.
This relocation, however, was short-lived. Following the nearly complete destruction of Homestead by Hurricane Andrew on 23 September 1992, IAAFA relocated to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Once again, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy opened its doors in just under 100 days later, on 11 January 1993.
Historically, IAAFA’s role in this effort has been to maximize the quality of training provided to our Latin American allies, thereby enhancing the impact of security assistance dollars provided by U.S. taxpayers. The training IAAFA has provided since its inception has also served to enhance the atmosphere of inter-Americanism through increased "opportunities for shared information and increased military-to-military contacts" that have arisen since 1943.
“SNCOs class 05B00”: MSgt Rodriguez Matos (USAF), SubOficial Becerra (Colombia), SubOficial Romero (Argentina), Suboficial Medina Rivas (Dominican Republic), Sgto Sanguino (Colombia), Suboficial Suarez (Colombia), Sgto Quichiguango (Ecuador), SubOficial Jiménez (El Salvador), and TSgt Compean (USAF).
IAAFA’s curriculum has continued to evolve in the post-Cold War era. Since 11 September 2001 the academy has added new courses, such as International Anti-Terrorism and Special Reaction Team, to help our Latin American allies better deal with the security challenges that are an omnipresent part of life in the early 21st century. Another area, professional military education (PME), also received increased attention and interest as our hemispheric neighbors are increasingly interested in promoting greater professionalization of both their officer and enlisted personnel.
Currently, IAAFA provides Spanish-language instruction for both officers and enlisted personnel in 46 supervisory, specialization, and technical-academic courses including aircraft systems and maintenance, helicopter maintenance, electronics, communications, intelligence, supply, logistics, air base ground defense, security, pilot instrument procedures, computer resources, and information systems management. The length of these courses vary from 1 to 12 weeks, with 30 to 35 percent of that time spent on academic theory and the remainder of the time dedicated to extensive "hands-on" training, which has always been one of the hallmarks of the academy’s curriculum. Training takes place at three geographically separated locations: Lackland Air Force Base, Kelly Field (formerly, Kelly Air Force Base), and Camp Bullis (a US Army installation northwest of the city of San Antonio). Each location provides an ideal environment for conducting the particular training from logistics and aircraft mechanics to intensive air base ground defense and security force courses.
But there is more to IAAFA than the courses we teach. IAAFA is also committed to exposing its students to the American lifestyle. Through its congressionally-mandated Informational Program, students are provided exposure to the U.S. culture, government, and citizens. Students are given the opportunity to visit local and state seats of government, city courts, museums, historical landmarks, and other points of interest. The Amistad (Friendship) Program, an extension of the Informational Program, places students with volunteer families from the local community for cultural exchanges and to see life outside of the military environment. The academy also sponsors several other events under the purview of the Informational Program. While attending IAAFA, students are also able to participate in Noche Cultural, an opportunity to showcase the music, dance, and other aspects of their native countries’ cultures and their particular contributions to la hispanidad.
Graduates from the UH-1 Helicopter Course
In the following section, we’ll take a look at recent enhancements to IAAFA’s officer and enlisted professional military education courses, courses that assist our hemispheric neighbors in the professional development of their military forces.
IAAFA provides Latin American forces with PME for both company grade officers and non-commissioned officers through its Squadron Officer Course (SOC) and Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Professional Development (NCOPD) course, to assist our allies with their efforts to enhance the professionalism of their officer and enlisted corps.
IAAFA’s officer PME course, SOC, is a revision of the previous Company Grade Officer Professional Development course (CGOPD), and it mirrors changes made in the US Air Force’s Squadron Officers School, located at Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The main distinction between the two curriculums is that IAAFA’s course is taught entirely in Spanish, with additional material relevant to Latin American militaries. Like its USAF counterpart, the IAAFA course helps prepare company grade officers for increased leadership responsibilities, and it is designed to be an early step in an officer’s professional military development. The course contains two main areas of emphasis. Improvement of student leadership and management skills, are taught through lessons on leadership, military ethics, officer values, and human rights. A second area, the development of airpower knowledge, focuses on the use of airpower, through lessons on the basic theories of warfare and the ever-increasing roles of aerospace and information systems in a joint operational environment. SOC course developers and instructors work closely with the staff of the Squadron Officers School to ensure that IAAFA’s course is updated and in line with the latest SOS curriculum. Recent enhancements to IAAFA’s course include Flickerball, an athletic leadership exercise that stresses strategy, tactics, teamwork, and adherence to very precise rules of engagement. In Flickerball, students learn to apply theoretical leadership and management principles to optimize the effectiveness of a military operation. Student are given further opportunities to apply newly-learned concepts and principles of leadership during periodic field exercises at the Leadership Reaction Course (LRC), located near IAAFA’s facilities at Lackland Air Force Base. The challenges presented during Flickerball and LRC exercises help students fine tune their leadership, communication, and teamwork skills in a more realistic environment.
Graduates from the latest SOS Class
Like its officer counterpart, NCOPD is modeled after the USAF Noncommissioned Officers Academy (NCOA). It prepares NCOs for the increased leadership and management responsibilities of their status. The course is designed to enhance the professional development of those assuming more senior NCO leadership positions (US equivalent, E-7 through E-9). The course curriculum focuses on the development of knowledge pertaining to military principles, and the relationship between national interests and the role of NCOs in furthering those interests. In this course, NCOs hone their skills as leaders and managers, learning time and stress management, human behavior concepts, and the implementation of total quality in the workplace.
Recent world events have highlighted the need for the Air Force, as a whole, to transform from a "corporate and in-garrison leadership approach" to an expeditionary mindset. Previously, lessons were somewhat fragmented in their approach. Revisions currently underway give the course a more logical sequence, showing students how specific lessons build on, and complement each other. Toward that end, both the USAF’s NCOA and IAAFA’S NCOPD course managers are in the process of revamping their curriculums to highlight the "four core attributes" required of every professional NCO. These attributes highlight the NCO’s role as a combat leader, a unit manager, a military professional, and, finally, as a managerial communicator. New lessons were added to highlight current Air Force doctrine. These lessons include topics such as "Today’s Combat Leader--Fit to Fight; Military Planning Processes; Joint Planning and Execution Community; Joint Force Components; Transformation,...Projection of Airpower," and communication skills relevant to the NCO’s role as a supervisor and manager.Like IAAFA’s Squadron Officer Course, classroom instruction and activities in the NCO Professional Development Course are augmented by several practical exercises. The Profession of Arms module has been updated. In "Today’s Combat Leader-Fit-To-Fight," cadre from our Student Support Flight help the students perform uniform inspections, drill and reveille ceremonies. Military Planning Processes, Joint Planning and Execution Community are similar to the areas taught in the USAF NCO Academy, but they are given a Latin flavor through the inclusion of Latin American regional material. In the Communication Skills block, students learn to draft official correspondence and performance-based bullet statements. Students also learn to edit the writing of others. The importance of interpersonal communication skills and the application of those these skills to simulated work center meetings are yet another facet of this portion of training. Student evaluations are based on their ability to solve issues using the interpersonal skills presented in the classroom. Finally, in the Leadership blocked, there is an increased emphasis on performance management, including the use of case studies, in which students dissect and identify lesson objectives. Use of the Leadership Reaction Course provides yet another method to observe and apply the application of leadership traits, problem solving abilities in time-pressure situations, management functions, and team leadership principles to accomplish tasks presented in the classroom.
As has been the case throughout its history, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy will continue to modernize and evolve to better meet the needs of our Latin American friends, as well as those of the United States. In this section, we will look at several areas, among them the reinvigoration of our mobile training team program and some new courses that are under implementation and consideration.
In the last two years, we have reinvigorated our mobile training team (MTT) program
The training our MTTs now conduct is based on existing formal courses in our course catalog that can be exported and taught in-country, on a set schedule that does not interfere with IAAFA’s resident courses. Individual countries may select the portions of a course their people need, and IAAFA will deploy instructors to teach in that country’s facilities. We still retain the capability to develop exportable courses not currently in our catalog, but doing so is on a strict case-by-case basis.
IAAFA continually strives to meet the need of our students and their governments through the revision of existing courses and the creation of new ones. Suggestions for these changes come from a wide variety of sources, including our students, instructors, chiefs of Latin American Air Forces, US military groups, Latin American visitors to IAAFA, and conversations we have with military people throughout the hemisphere during our visits to other countries. Based on these suggestions, we have developed courses covering inspection and quality, total quality, and aircraft accident investigation. The inspection and quality course is ready to be taught during the 2006 academic year, and the course on total quality will be taught during our upcoming 2005-D class (October-December 2005). We have the ability to teach both courses in-residence or via MTTs, depending on the desires of our customers and the availability. The aircraft accident investigation course was requested as a CONJEFAMER interest item, and it is currently under consideration and development.
Since 1943, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy has strived to provide the very best in technical training and professional education to the governments of Latin America and their armed services. From its birthplace in the Panama Canal Zone, its time in Florida, and, finally, from our current facilities in Texas, IAAFA has graduated over 37,000 students who have used the experience gained at the academy to improve their own professionalism and the security of their countries.
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The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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