The ambassador of Colombia to the United States toured the Inter-American Air Forces Academy during his visit on March 8th. As part of the visit, Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón viewed the campus and spoke to leadership from Army South and IAAFA before speaking with more than 80 Colombian students and instructors.
“We were able to show him some of the facilities here as well as talk with him about the different courses that the students are taking and how we are helping reinforce the Colombian Peace Process through building interoperability (the ability of military groups to operate in conjunction with each other) with the Colombian forces,” said Col. Monica Partridge, IAAFA commandant.
The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, participated in a peace process, which began in 2012. On November 12, 2016, both parties signed a peace agreement.
The peace agreement was one of Pinzón’s three reasons for visiting. “The first reason for my visit is to share the positive (peace) resolution in Colombia,” said Ambassador Pinzón. “Thanks to our Armed Forces we were able to reach peace, and now our Armed Forces are crucial to make peace sustainable and viable in Colombia. Secondly, I want to see how much our two nations and our armed forces collaborate. The U.S. military and Colombian military have worked together for a long time and it is a great opportunity to see it. Thirdly, we have a lot of Colombian students here and it is my honor to bring them a message of thanks and to ask them to keep learning as much as they can while at this great school.”
“IAAFA has between 150 to 350 students per 12-week cycle, and about 900 to 1,000 students per year,” Col. Partridge explained. “About 50 to 60 percent of the students are from Colombia.”
The school house teaches a range of courses, including topics like aircraft maintenance, ground defense, search-and-rescue planning, cyber security, antiterrorism, and becoming an instructor or pilot. There are more than 30 different courses available all together, all taught in Spanish.
The ambassador gave a glowing review of IAAFA and its staff. “I am very impressed with the commitment of the IAAFA staff,” he said. “They are very engaged with all of the students.” Their depth of knowledge, level of expertise, and that they possessed the latest information in their fields also impressed Pinzón, he said. “Their training allows our military to have higher quality professionals and better understanding of the technology available to be more efficient in their mission to protect and defend Colombians,” the ambassador continued.
Students are able to take away more than just the training, which Pinzón also praised IAAFA for. Not only do they develop technical and professional proficiencies, but they also gain knowledge of the U.S. culture and have the opportunity to share and exchange knowledge with other Latin American military members, he elaborated.
The visit was possible because of the ties between the two countries, reflecting the partnership between the United States and Colombia. “We have a very strong and robust relationship with Colombia, and this visit is an example of that,” Col. Partridge said. “It reinforces the ties we have with Colombia and shows that we continue to strengthen our interoperability and our ability to work both during conflict and during peace together as two democratic nations.”
“The U.S. and Colombian relationship is a long one; about 200 years,” Pinzón added. “In the past 15 years, we have been strengthening our ties and our armed forces have become very close. The success in Colombia is from the sacrifices from our military and police, but also the U.S. who has supported Colombia.” The success, he said, was “transforming it from a country that use to be the most violent in the hemisphere to now a country that provides security, peace and stability all across Latin America.”
“It has been good for Colombia and its future to have these exchanges with not only IAAFA, but the other American schools,” Pinzón concluded. “It’s great to see with my own eyes and be able to testify how important these exchanges are and how wonderful the relationship is between both of our armed forces.”