JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The language skills of the Inter-American Air Forces Academy team were front and center during Programa Integral para Suboficiales de Alta Jerarquía, a professional development training engagement conducted with U.S. Army South and the Colombian Army June 14-25.
The two-week event took place at the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation in Fort Benning, Georgia, and MacDill AFB, Florida, for approximately 40 soldiers from the Colombian and Peruvian armies. PISAJ-15 served as the next step in their professional development as army sergeants major.
During the weeks long training, five IAAFA members provided uninterrupted assistance during PISAJ-15. They translated two weeks of back-to-back briefings from English to Spanish – working after hours to facilitate talks between the Latin American Soldiers whether they attended a military briefing, talked to a non-Spanish speaking military member, or shopped the Post Exchange.
“It was a great experience,” said Master Sgt. Alexander Jaime, IAAFA Standardization/Evaluation Chief. “I think what we showed is that we bring so much more to the table than just our language, the continuous after-hours support and the flexibility to get the mission done.”
Chief Master Sgt. Emilio Avila, IAAFA Superintendent, led a mission briefing on Day 1 of PISAJ-15 to discuss the academy’s capabilities. Tech. Sgt. Monserat Bravo, non-commissioned officer in charge, IAAFA International Student Operations, served as one of four members who led a gender integration panel on women in the military.
“In the past, I had the habit of sitting away from the table,” Bravo said. “My male colleagues tried to include me and let me know that I’m part of the team and shouldn’t exclude myself. In that way, they’ve helped me see that we have the same capacity regardless of gender.”
The gender discussion generated dozens of questions and comments from Colombian soldiers, including Sergeant Major Carmona Adiela Henao, Colombian Army. She congratulated the women for helping lay the groundwork for other females in the military.
“I am a mom, too. I have a 14-year-old son,” Henao said. “I’ve also had to figure it out in tough moments at home and at work, but it hasn’t been an impediment for me to get ahead. I really congratulate all of you today for breaking boundaries in this country; it serves as an example in our own countries.”
PISAJ-15 was the first time some IAAFA members worked as translators in a similar event.
“We do security cooperation; we are ambassadors for IAAFA, Air Education and Training Command and the U.S., and that experience helped a lot,” Jaime said. “There were some difficult moments, but we were able to do it seamlessly without any drop-off.”