Strengthening strategic partnerships through professional military education

  • Published
  • By SMSgt J. Travis Robbins
While it may still be a young organization, the Inter-European Air Forces Academy has already made a resounding impact across the globe.

Since its official activation March 23, 2016, IEAFA has delivered education and training opportunities to more than 860 military professionals from 40 different countries.

The most recent professional military education course held November 2019, reached new heights in both size and diversity, with a combined 44 officers and noncommissioned officers from 21 different countries, including first time country attendance from Austria, Norway, and the United Kingdom, taking part in IEAFA’s largest class to date.

While the attendees were part of the same class, they attended two distinct courses: the Inter-European Squadron Officer School and the Inter-European Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

The two courses are taught in parallel using a blended approach, where more than 50 percent of the courses are integrated between officer and enlisted teams.

This model capitalizes on both officer and enlisted perspectives for selected lessons and exercises, ultimately showcasing the benefit of a professional officer and enlisted working relationship.

“To share leadership knowledge and experience with officers and airmen from 21 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations, in a blended environment, has been such a valuable experience,” said Royal Air Force Flight Sgt. Mark Moore, IEAFA class 20-A attendee. “I’d strongly recommend the course to anyone who wishes to stretch themselves academically and professionally, as it will give them the tools and context to find common solutions to complex problems.”

Prior to attending PME, some students may view the course as a requirement to meet their career progression milestones. However, those views may change when students learn PME is an opportunity to gain newfound knowledge to be a better communicator, critical thinker, and problem solver.

PME courses at IEAFA not only develop professional skills and qualities, they also do much more. Students develop intangible skills such as leadership, followership, and decision-making.

IEAFA courses are designed from the ground up for international partners. While most other U.S.-centric PME courses have a cross-cultural awareness lesson to teach students how to engage and work with other cultures, the entire five-week course at IEAFA is a real-time cultural lesson in and of itself because it offers a multinational perspective daily.
This diversity can generate one-of-a-kind discussions, dialogue, and debates during the lessons, which can then even turn into sub-lessons within themselves.

“IEAFA taught us about diversity and how we can use this as an advantage to build teams,” said Royal Norwegian air force Command Senior Master Sgt. Stig Snekvik, IEAFA class 20-A attendee. “It also taught the importance of understanding each other’s culture and traditions, because that enables us to better communicate and understand each other.”

According to the National Defense Strategy, “PME is to be used as a strategic asset to build trust and interoperability across the Joint Forces and with allied and partner forces.”

Based off of previous feedback, the strategic advantage of multinational PME courses is that they build new relationships, partnerships, and friendships across borders.

“We started here as representatives from 21 different nations to improve our leadership and followership skills,” said Austrian air force Captain Christoph Berger, IEAFA class 20-A attendee. “We came as comrades, but we leave as lifelong friends.”

The focus at IEAFA is on strengthening and developing the only common weapon system shared by all NATO and Partnership for Peace countries: people. By slowly blurring the borders of Europe in providing a venue to learn from and understand each other, IEAFA is living up to its motto of being Stronger Together!