Colombian Air Force to Have Female Instructors

Colombian Air Force to Have Female Instructors

By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo
October 26, 2017

The sixth edition of the Colombian Air Force’s (FAC, per its Spanish acronym) Basic Training Instructor Course taught at the Captain Andrés M. Díaz Noncommissioned Officers Academy concluded on September 26th. This course was unique because it was the first time that a woman graduated from it — Senior Airman Angélica Fernández Beltrán, whose specialty is air base defense and security. “It’s not easy being chosen for a role like this. Women training soldiers!” Senior Airman Fernández proudly exclaimed. “It really is progress. I want to acknowledge FAC’s openness to change and inclusion.” As a result of a strategy focused on improving the training process for all personnel from the moment they join the service, FAC has modified its military training framework in order to standardize the criteria, knowledge, and abilities. It was necessary to train the instructors who welcome new enrollees and who teach the basics of military life to those who will become its new noncommissioned officers. For this course, the top leadership at the school made the decision to admit Senior Airman Fernández, who already had experience managing troops but not as an instructor. She worked hard to earn her position. Senior Airman Fernández was first in her class when she did her Base Defense and Security training in 2016. That, together with her on-the-job performance and her physical abilities, was her passport to the counter-guerrilla course. Instructors must be model service members “Basic training is decisive. It marks the moment in which a civilian is transformed into a service member,” Senior Airman Fernández said. “If we do it well from the start, we will have soldiers who contribute to society. A service member’s future depends on the basics taught in this course.” Senior Airman Fernández’s military career began in 2011. She was not able to enter the armed forces after graduating from high school, as was her dream, but she strove to make her way into military life. She studied Logistics Administration at the Colombian Army Logistics School. When she finished her studies, she joined FAC. “There, I fulfilled my dream of becoming a member of the military to serve my country. I’m very proud of belonging to this force. I chose the Base Defense and Security specialty because I like the mission of protecting air units. This helps keep our operations running normally,” Senior Airman Fernández explained to Diálogo. “My other passions in life are mountain biking and the saxophone, which I’ve been playing since I was three.” Training with professionals This iteration of the instructor course was taught by Chief Master Sergeant Diana María Velasco, another female service member who in turn was the first Colombian woman to be certified as an instructor by the U.S. Air Force. Chief Master Sgt. Velasco was trained at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy NCO school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. “I took the course in 2015,” Chief Master Sgt. Velasco told Diálogo. “That’s how I got into a training program with more than 40 years of experience that has allowed me to design a better-structured training.” Chief Master Sgt. Velasco describes the enormous progress that the Air Force has made in terms of gender integration. “I’m an example of that,” she acknowledged. “The contributions that women are making in all areas of FAC are undeniable. Up until a few years ago, it was unthinkable to have women in base security and defense, maintenance, etc. But spaces have been opening up for that. We have excellent women moving this institution forward.” The opening In 1979, FAC was a pioneer in Latin America when it opened its doors to 38 female professionals who became noncommissioned officers. They all specialized in administrative work. But with the door cracked open, female participation has gone hand in hand with transforming traditionally male gender roles. The incorporation of female pilots is proof of that. In the year 2000, seven female cadets earned their pilot’s wings. “We’ve had some important achievements, but there are still very few of us in proportion to the level of male participation,” stated Major Marta Martín, the director of the FAC’s Legal Office of Workplace and Human Rights, which is responsible for the gender issue in the service. Female participation in the military is becoming more and more visible. Today, there are 1,090 female officers and enlisted in FAC. “The struggle is ongoing. We’re in a male environment and men are the ones who make the decisions about female service members’ careers. Many of them find it hard to give us more opportunities,” Maj. Martín concluded. “However, there are top-level leaders who are committed to opening up more spaces for us.”
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