By Senior Airman William Blankenship, 42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
*editor’s note: Capt Barrett has been in LEAP since 2011 for Spanish when her DLPT scores were a 2+/2. After completing 3 eMentor courses and a LITE to Uruguay, her scores jumped to a 3/3 and she was postured to be selected for events like this.
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. —
Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets visited Uruguay for the Uruguayan Air Force Academy’s 100th anniversary celebration, Nov. 22-25.
The Uraguayan Air Force Academy, Escuela Militar de Aeronáutica, extended the invitation to AFROTC to come join in their celebration.
The five selected cadets traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay, to participate in formal ceremonies and cultural activities, along with escort officer Capt. Amanda Barrett, Detachment 425 Recruiting Flight commander, Mississippi State University.
The cadets and escort officer’s selection to attend the ceremony was based on their language abilities, regional experience and overall performance in AFROTC. The group was joined by delegations from Paraguay, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
“Going to Uruguay was such a fantastic opportunity to learn differences in officer training and preparing leaders,” Barrett said. “While our Air Force is significantly bigger, their goals for training roughly 300 officers is similar to ours in the expectation of being the best at what they do.”
Barrett visited the country previously as part of the Language Enabled Airman Program, which helped position herself as the escort officer.
“I was prepared for the trip in both my knowledge of the language and the Uruguayan culture due to the outstanding training from the LEAP program,” she said. “Because of the program, I was able to handle all of the logistics of our official travel, overcome the language and culture barriers, and represent the Air Force in a positive way.”
Represented universities include University of Florida, University of South Florida, New Mexico State University, University of Wyoming, University of Delaware, and Mississippi State University.
“This was an experience of a lifetime, filled with new experiences and memories,” said Cadet Edward Turos, Detachment 158 at University of South Florida. “The cadets at the Uruguay Academy were really welcoming, providing us with lunch and showing us their facilities. There, we got to meet cadets from other countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Brazil, sharing each other’s training experiences and even playing in a game of pool, in which we beat Paraguay.”
As the group began to prepare for their part in the ceremonies, some cultural miscommunication set in, and they quickly realized their participation would not be as routine as assumed.
“During the dry run for the ceremony, we came to the realization that ‘ceremony’ did not mean an intricate dinner as we had expected,” Turos said. “Instead, it meant a parade ceremony for their commissioning class. We were soon mustered up in a five-hour parade practice where everything we knew about [marching] became irrelevant to the new Spanish commands that we were being taught, and flexibility became key. This long day finished with a late dinner with the rest of the international delegations, enjoying the exquisite taste of Uruguayan steak.”
This crash course on multi-national collaboration did extend beyond the parade field, as the cadets were afforded the opportunity to gain understanding of other air forces they may work with in the future.
“After the ceremony, we spent the rest of the time integrating with the cadets from the other nations,” Turos said. “As a pilot select, I used that time to learn about their pilot training and the different variety of aircraft from other countries. What stood out the most was the difference in the mission of our Air Force with theirs–ours having a high predominance in global-theater interest versus the national interest that their military is used for.”
For the remainder of the trip, the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay facilitated transportation and a tour guide that allowed the group to visit Colonia, the oldest city in Uruguay, and experience the local culture of Montevideo. The defense attaché officer for the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay, Col. Lawrence Pravecek, joined the group and commended them on their positive representation of the U.S. Air Force.
This experience allowed future Air Force leaders to get a greater understanding of the culture and society of the countries.
“This experience helped me learn more about the South American culture, taught me the importance of diplomacy and allowed me to make friends from other countries,” said Cadet Marissa Trujillo, Detachment 940 at University of Wyoming. “The U.S. Air Force puts a large emphasis on international relations and the joint mission, so opportunities like these help build those bonds between the U.S. and other countries.”