Guardsmen, partner nations attend first Air Force all-Spanish international SNCO course

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Morgan Whitehouse
  • Air National Guard

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Renier Herrera, Air National Guard member and student at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, listens to a classmate during a small group discussion as part of the International Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Course Oct. 20, 2021. Herrera was one of 189 students who graduated during a ceremony Dec. 8, 2021 at JBSA-Lackland, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Vanessa R. Adame)

Two Air National Guardsmen participated in the first International Senior Noncommissioned Officer Course held all in Spanish by the Inter-American Air Force Academy (IAAFA) at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 4-Dec. 8.

The IAAFA mission is to provide education and training to military personnel of the Americas and partner nations. In support of this initiative, IAAFA rebuilt the Air Force SNCO curriculum to cater to Spanish-speaking Total Force Airmen and international students.

Master Sgt. Diana Melero-Sena, from the New Mexico Air National Guard, was one of two Citizen Airmen to participate in the course.

“I am the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, so I grew up speaking Spanish in my household,” Melero-Sena said. “When I heard about IAFAA and that they were going to have a SNCO course in Spanish, I knew I had to apply. Plus our unit has a state partnership with Costa Rica, it was perfect.”

Similar to Melero-Sena, New Mexico Air National Guard Master Sgt. Reiner Herrera was motivated to take part in the course by his Hispanic heritage.

“I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and moved to the United States in 1998,” Herrera said. “Knowing firsthand about trans-national crimes and global threats happening in South America, it hits home. I made it my goal to do what I can to be a positive representative of [Latino] culture. That’s why I signed up for this course, and it’s been an honor to attend.”

The eight-week, in-residence ISNCO course aimed to equip today’s military leaders with the skills, strategies and tools to effectively lead enlisted troops while simultaneously incorporating an IAAFA twist.

“Because we all knew a common language, we were able to break barriers almost instantly,” Melero-Sena said. “That’s what’s insightful about IAAFA… the added twist of getting to learn alongside Spanish speakers from partner nations allowed us to build a foundation to work together in the future.”

In addition to teaching core leadership principles, the course encouraged students to develop long-lasting professional relationships and practice their ability to seamlessly integrate forces.

“It’s extremely important to have a learning platform like this so that, when we go operational, we have this experience to look back on,” Herrera said. “Collaborating together, learning together, even learning about each other’s culture, that’s all essential to getting the mission done together.”

Launching the ISNCO course reflects the Air Force’s ongoing commitment to leverage each Airman’s diverse background, experience and perspective to enrich the enterprise.

“The fact that PME is being held in Spanish allows the Total Force integration with partner nation forces to counter threats and show how far the Air Force has progressed,” Melero-Sena said. “I’m proud the Air Force sees our diversity and wants us to use our unique skills and backgrounds to further the mission.”