IAAFA stands out in AETC awards, earns top accolades

  • Published
  • By Vanessa R. Adame
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Enlisted Professional Military Education Center at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy has earned top honors at the Air Education and Training Command level for the second consecutive year.

The academy’s professional military education program was named Outstanding EPME Center of the Year in the 2020 Enlisted Professional Military Education Awards Program.

“It is a great honor to be recognized for this award for the second consecutive year,” said Lt. Col. Oscar Martinez, 837th Training Squadron commander. “This is due to not only the amazing work all our instructors and support elements bring every day to ensure a quality PME program, but also the dedication and innovation to make the program even better to support our partner nations’ requirements.”

The Enlisted Professional Military Education Awards Program recognizes Airmen who support the EPME mission with their outstanding performance, service and exceptional contributions. 

“The main focus of the EPME Center of the Year Award was ‘Outstanding Unit Performance’ which IAAFA showed time and time again,” said Chief Master Sgt. Eric Johnson, chief of AETC Enlisted PME Programs. “They have a great team and are doing amazing things for our Airmen.”

IAAFA competed against three EPME centers from two installations. The board tied the academy’s primary mission – to educate and train military personnel of the Americas and partner nations – to the overall impact on the Air Force.

 “The competition was tough as our force generators are doing awesome things all across the Air Force,” Johnson said.

The academy teaches international students entirely in Spanish, helping enhance interoperability between the U.S. and partner nations. Spanish-speaking Airmen from the U.S. Air Force also have the opportunity to learn right beside partner nation students and earn credit for professional military education.

IAAFA’s PME center is the only institution in the Air Force that offers all three levels of enlisted PME instruction, with courses for junior enlisted, non-commissioned officers and senior NCOs. The PME center was also the only one in the Air Force that maintained in-residence instruction during COVID-19, when all other PME centers closed their doors.

One of the academy’s PME instructors, Master Sgt. Diego Ladino Restrepo, PME Flight Chief, also earned top honors in the AETC awards as he was named EPME Senior NCO of the Year.

According to Johnson, Ladino Restrepo’s unwavering leadership and commitment to excellence at IAAFA put him over his peers. He was selected for the award out of 11 individuals.

“Master Sgt. Ladino Restrepo not only showed excellence as an individual, but also as a leader of a phenomenal team,” Johnson said.

As COVID impacted facilities everywhere, Ladino Restrepo and his team worked countless hours to continue the mission despite operating in a new environment.

“I am honored to have won this award,” he said. “Our work as instructors is very important for the development of our armed forces and it’s very gratifying to know that the work, dedication and effort is recognized. Being recognized as instructor of the year fills me with great pride, gratitude and the desire to continue giving my best professionally and above all to continue learning more every day.”

Ladino Restrepo and IAAFA’s EPME Center are now competing for the same awards at the Air Force level.