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NEWS | Dec. 13, 2021

New Mexico Airmen attend first all-Spanish SNCO course

By Tech. Sgt. Morgan Whitehouse, Air National Guard

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

The IAAFA rebuilt the Air Force SNCO curriculum to cater to Spanish-speaking Total Force Airmen and international students.

New Mexico Air National Guard Master Sgt. Diana Melero-Sena 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,” said Melero-Sena. “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.”

New Mexico Air National Guard Master Sgt. Reiner Herrera said his Hispanic heritage also motivated him to attend the course.

“I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and moved to the United States in 1998,” said Herrera. “Knowing firsthand about transnational 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 in-residence course is designed to equip today’s military leaders with the skills, strategies and tools to effectively lead enlisted troops while incorporating an IAAFA ‘twist.’

“Because we all knew a common language, we were able to break barriers almost instantly,” said Melero-Sena. “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 integrate forces seamlessly.

“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,” said Herrera. “Collaborating together, learning together, even learning about each other’s culture, that’s all essential to getting the mission done together.”

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

“The fact that PME in 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,” said Melero-Sena. “I’m proud the Air Force sees our diversity and wants us to use our unique skills and backgrounds to further the mission.”