Latin American air force cadets participated in a four-year academic program in one of the best military institutions in the United States: the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) founded in 1954 and located in Colorado. Cadets adhere to a strict daily schedule with a complete load of academic work, classroom debates, leadership skills, time management, and extracurricular activities.
“It’s a great honor to represent the Air Force of my country,” said Peruvian Air Force Cadet Fernando Mario Cortes Cifuentes, a second-year student of Aeronautical Engineering. “USAFA is probably one of the best opportunities I am going to have in my whole life. I am very proud of being here.”
For Mexican Navy Cadet Itzel Sinaí Chan Topete, a second-year student of Civil Engineering, USAFA changed her vision of life. “As international students, not only have we learned about the American culture, but we’ve also learned about cultures around the world,” she said. “It helped me to understand the overall view about the military, discipline, and our values, that are universal.”
“When I was accepted, the news seemed very surreal because I didn’t expect to be chosen; it’s extremely competitive. I am really grateful that I have the opportunity to come here,” said Panamanian Cadet Joe Henry Laniado Guerrero, a three-year student in Computer Science. “We have cadets from all over the U.S., but when you are here at the academy, we are all USAFA. We are all brothers in arms.”
Cadets Cortes, Chan, and Laniado are among students from 25 countries worldwide attending USAFA’s International program. The academy offers four to five-year military college programs and students graduate with a bachelor of science degree. After completing their studies, international cadets return to their home country to serve in their respective military force. USAFA began its international program in 1962, and has so far graduated 387 international students, specializing in 28 different academic majors.
“We build relationships with partner nations, whether it’s with Latin American nations or nations elsewhere in the world. Our cadets are going to serve in a global air force that exists to serve not just our nation, but the interests of our allies,” said U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Andrew Armacost, dean of the Faculty, USAFA. “Through exchange programs with Latin American partners, these relationships will serve [our students] when they are in active duty.”
In addition to the four-year academic program, USAFA offers one semester-long exchange programs with Chile, Colombia, and Brazil. The institution also hosts an international week, where cadets from Latin America come to the academy for an academic exchange, which is also open to international instructors.
For U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Sabrina Peters, deputy of International Programs at USAFA, the importance of the academic program for the air forces of the region is priceless. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for information exchange and to learn about each other’s services,” she said. “It’s benchmarking, learning from each other, about each other how we do business, and then perhaps to capitalize on those experiences down the road.”