International Academy graduates inaugural class

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jill Marie Diem
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
The first graduating class of the Inter-European Air Forces Academy, Einsiedlerhof, Germany had the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander’s undivided attention when he spoke with students May 10.

“Change is inevitable,” Gen. Frank Gorenc stated several times. “You have to have the basics to maneuver through the change. When you don’t know what the future will bring, focus on the basics.”

Representing air forces from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, 31 students from 11 militaries are having a one month crash course in U.S. Air Force leadership basics, hearing it straight from the top.

The basics Gorenc referred to were mission, leadership, safety, loyalty and discipline. All things considered crucial to a successful Air Force career, according to the 37-year veteran, and also a focus of IEAFA.

“I was incredibly impressed that a four-star general took the time out of his busy schedule to prepare this presentation for us, just a small group,” said Capt. Jason Thanasakopoulos, a C-130 pilot in the Hellenic air force. “It was a unique experience for us. All of the things happening here are unique for us: The facilities we have, how our instructors treat us, and the supplies they give us. This school is amazing.”

The school was started to reassure nations that the U.S. Air Force is here to help raise their capabilities to build interoperability through education, leadership, team building and joint discussion.

Multi-national officers and enlisted learn together to provide a greater understanding on an individual level that will build partnerships, enhance cooperation, and help our air forces operate more effectively together. Combining forces day to day in this way is one of the many inherent strengths of NATO.

“I think the students are enjoying it,” said Capt. Karl Stadnicki, an instructor at the academy. “It’s really opening their eyes to the United States and the rest of Europe. They’ve really gotten a broader perspective.”

Stadnicki went on to say, “I’m an immigrant just like General Gorenc. It’s important to me on that level to reassure European partners and to make sure that Europe is stable to move forward and prosper. Right now we are moving toward a time of conflict and strife in Europe with both the migrant crisis and a resurgent Russia. Now is a good time to focus on developing those common skills. It’s going to take countries cooperating together to solve those problems.”

The inaugural class graduates May 27. The next course, with a new group of NATO airmen from an even broader national range, begins June 20.