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IAAFA celebrates 78 years of excellence

IAAFA celebrated its 78th anniversary March 15, 2021.

Col. José Jiménez, Jr., Inter-American Air Forces Academy Commandant, and Airman Basic Marly Gómez of the Colombian Air Force pose before cutting the cake at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 15, 2021. Approximately 60 guests attended the 78th anniversary celebration at IAAFA’s Airfield Training Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Vanessa R. Adame)

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy celebrated its 78th birthday in a small ceremony with top leaders at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 15, 2021.

Tech. Sgt. Monserat Bravo Ponce serves international students at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy 78th anniversary celebration at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 15, 2021. Approximately 60 guests attended the event at IAAFA’s Airfield Training Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Vanessa R. Adame)

IAAFA celebrated its 78th anniversary March 15, 2021.

Airmen listen to remarks by Col. José Jiménez, Jr., Inter-American Air Forces Academy Commandant, during IAAFA’s 78th anniversary celebration at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 15, 2021. Approximately 60 guests attended the event at IAAFA’s Airfield Training Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Vanessa R. Adame)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The Inter-American Air Forces Academy celebrated its 78th anniversary in a small ceremony with top leaders here March 15.

Distinguished guests, international students and IAAFA members joined leadership at the IAAFA Airfield Training Complex to commemorate the occasion.

Col. José Jiménez, Jr., IAAFA Commandant, spoke to a crowd of approximately 60 guests, recalling the academy’s long history starting from its inception at Albrook Air Force Station, Panama, with only 11 students, to current day where hundreds of Latin American and U.S. Air Force students train each year.

“Today our family carries on the tradition of integrity, excellence and selflessness in our daily battle rhythm,” Jiménez said. “You deliver relevant, modern and innovative education and training to more than 800 Latin American and U.S. Air Force students each year. You do this with a ‘pasión’ and dedication unmatched anywhere in our service.”

The youngest member at the academy -- Airman Basic Marly Gómez from the Colombian Air Force --  joined Jiménez in cutting the cake using the ceremonial saber, and in singing happy birthday to the academy. 

Col. Rockie Wilson, 37th Training Wing commander, spoke of the partnerships fostered at IAAFA being necessary for the nation.

“Thank you all so very much for being here at IAAFA to help continue to build our collective international capacity in meeting the challenges of tomorrow,” Wilson said.

IAAFA’s history goes back to 1943 when it was established as the Central and South American Air School at the request of General Fernando Melgar, Peru’s minister of Aeronautics. The school offered the first aeronautics training in Latin America. In the 1940s and ’50s, enrollment increased to approximately 400 students per year.

The school went through two additional name changes until it became the Inter-American Air Forces Academy in 1966. In 1989, the academy moved to Homestead AFB, Florida, but was destroyed during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This forced a move to JBSA-Lackland, where the academy was in full operation just 100 days later. Through all the changes, its mission to provide education and training has remained constant. Academy officials keep the curriculum relevant by adapting its courses according to partner nation needs.    

Today, the academy offers more than 30 courses to international students across 23 partner nations in professional education, operations and support training; and aircraft and systems training.