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IAAFA leads professional development seminar in Ecuador

Students build bridge on table.

Ecuadorian armed forces students build a bridge during a team building exercise during a professional development seminar April 30, 2021, in Ecuador. Members of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and 12th Air Force collaborated with IAAFA for the engagement to assess the professional development programs for officer and enlisted ranks across the Ecuadorian military. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ecuadorian military members watch as an instructor reads an exercise scenario.

Ecuadorian armed forces students participate in a team building exercise during a professional development seminar April 30, 2021, in Ecuador. Members of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and 12th Air Force collaborated with IAAFA for the engagement to assess the professional development programs for officer and enlisted ranks across the Ecuadorian military. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Eight military members pose for photo.

Members of the Inter-American Air Forces Academy and Ecuadorian armed forces members pose for a photo during a tour of the Ecuadorian Army War College April 30, 2021, in Ecuador. Members of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and 12th Air Force collaborated with IAAFA for the engagement to assess the professional development programs for officer and enlisted ranks across the Ecuadorian military. (U.S. Air Force photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – For the first time in more than a decade, members of the Inter-American Air Forces Academy recently collaborated with Ecuadorian armed forces for a professional military exchange in Ecuador.

Members of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and 12th Air Force collaborated with IAAFA for the engagement to assess the professional development programs for officer and enlisted ranks across the Ecuadorian military. It was IAAFA’s first visit to a partner nation since the coronavirus outbreak more than one year ago.

“It was a great experience to be able to share knowledge and our development models for both officers and NCOs,” said Master Sgt. Diego Ladino Restrepo, Professional Military Education Flight chief. “The Ecuadorian armed forces were very transparent with us, and they opened their doors to us completely.”

Approximately 30 military members from the Ecuadorian army and air force participated in the engagement from April 26-30. Each military organization discussed their officer and enlisted structure, including discussions on developing their forces.

Chief Master Sgt. Emilio Avila, IAAFA superintendent, led a presentation about NCO empowerment with officers and enlisted members. The exchange – originally set for less than an hour – engaged members in a two-hour discussion.

Avila said the Ecuadorian military proved itself a strong and disciplined force with the right educational structure for the careers of their service members.

“We went to learn what they have to offer and how we could complement what they already have,” Avila said.

The collaboration helped IAAFA leaders understand how the Ecuadorian armed forces generate future officer and enlisted leaders, including within its female ranks. Similarly, the forum provided Ecuadorian forces an opportunity to learn how the U.S. develops its military members to become future leaders. 

“The purpose was to show how we’re bringing them together,” said Capt. Yaira Saroli, 837th Training Squadron International Professional Military Education Flight commander. “They’re all about developing the officer, but we have an initiative of developing the NCO because it’s lacking in Latin America. And they were open to it, which tells us they’re willing to learn.”

IAAFA members led team-building exercises, bringing the ranks together, to help strengthen the relationship between officers and enlisted members.

The engagement culminated with two days of visits to Ecuadorian army and air force schoolhouses to learn more about their curriculum and professional development.

“We were very impressed with their processes,” Saroli said.

While the armed forces in Ecuador work to improve the professional development of their enlisted forces, IAAFA will continue to strengthen the relationship with this partner nation.

“We don’t want them to come to IAAFA only as students, but also as instructors … we saw a lot of potential,” Saroli said.