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New IAAFA airfield facility consolidates aviation training

by Mike Joseph
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Public Affairs

2/17/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Senior Air Force and Inter-American Air Forces Academy leaders, along with representatives from six Latin America partner nations, opened the new IAAFA Airfield Training Complex here in a ceremony Feb. 9.

The new $19-million training complex combines all IAAFA aviation maintenance courses in one location.

"More than a new home for the 318th Training Squadron, this facility serves as another milestone in the Inter-American Air Forces Academy's 68-year legacy of enriching the global community of airmen," said Lt. Gen. Robin Rand, the 12th Air Force commander and Air Forces Southern commander out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

"It is vivid evidence of the United States Air Force's commitment to building and nurturing international partnerships," Rand said. "It is important to emphasize that this new facility provides more than 21st century technical training. It also brings us together and helps build lasting partnerships based on our common pursuit of freedom and democratic principles."

The project was funded by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law that closed Kelly Field, where IAAFA training courses and aircraft were housed in seven different buildings.

In addition to Rand, retired Peruvian Air Force Maj. Gen. Fernando Melgar, a former Air Defense commander and air attaché to the United States and Canada, was another guest speaker at the ceremony. Melgar's grandfather, Gen. Fernando Melgar Conde, was a key principal member in the formation of IAAFA.

"Since I first came to the United States (in 1965), I've had a great admiration for the organization and effectiveness of its Air Force," Melgar said. "I clearly understand the idea my grandfather had in 1943 when he proposed the creation of an inter-American school that would contribute to the technical training of its members.

"Today this is reflected in our Air Forces as they share the same philosophy and knowledge," he added. "It allows a better mutual understanding and (the ability) to effectively fulfill our respective missions."

IAAFA welcomed its first students from partner nations to the 85,000-square-foot training complex Feb. 13. The facility was eight years in the making, design through construction, and includes leadership in energy and environmental design features.

The result is a state-of-the-art training facility that creates cost and man-hour savings, efficiencies and synergies, said Col. Marc Stratton, the IAAFA commandant.

"We'll have financial and man-hour savings because we no longer have to transport students and instructors to and from Kelly every day or have extended hours at the dining facility to accommodate those early-morning bus rides," Stratton said. "The training is all consolidated. Our two squadrons (the 837th and 318th Training Squadrons) are now together, and we're already starting to see the crossflow that is possible."

Stratton said IAAFA's NCOs played a key role in the building's design. The layout facilitates student instruction and enhances learning capabilities in the 18 courses taught to students from 21 Latin American countries.

Housed in the new facility are 21 SMART Board classrooms, 42 administrative areas, 13 hands-on training laboratories, 11 aircraft, a 14-by 24-foot paint booth and mixing room, a C-130 Hercules two/parking ramp, an aircraft wash rack and eight aircraft hangars.

"Students can go from classroom to laboratory to aircraft," Stratton said. "There's a natural progression."

Following a tour after the ceremony, Melgar stood in the center of a hangar, reflecting on the occasion.

"For me, it's emotional," Melgar said. "My grandfather was futuristic; he had a vision for the future. It was 68 years ago he helped create this academy, but I don't think he thought there would be a facility like this."

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