LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
A group of distinguished cadets from the air service academies of several Latin American countries visited Luke Oct. 31, 2018, as part of the Department of Defense Latin American Cadet Initiative program.
LACI takes the top two cadets from the academies of the Air Forces of a number of South and Central American countries including Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia, and tours them across U.S. Air Force bases where they experience some of the mission, procedures, and culture of American Airmen. At Luke, the cadets learned about the F-35A Lightning II and the 56th Fighter Wing’s mission to train the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready Airmen.
“This is a great program, not just because it gives us a new perspective on the military, but because it helps us to build lifelong relationships and puts us in a good position as potential future leaders of our armed forces,” said Gean Louis Torres Herrera, Dominican Air Force cadet and class leader. “[Luke] is probably the best base we’ve visited because we got to see probably the most powerful aircraft in the world, the F-35. I felt honored to be able to look at it.”
The cadets visited the F-35 Academic Training Center, where they flew simulators and learned about the advanced capabilities of the F-35, before going to several fighter squadrons where they immersed themselves in the operational environment.
“Luke has a special mission,” said 2nd Lt. Carlos Mejias, 56th Operational Support Squadron airfield operations manager and LACI tour coordinator. “Training the future of combat aviation is a key to air power and air superiority. Allowing the cadets to receive a glimpse of the level of dedication that Luke AFB has to our mission and how we all come together to accomplish the mission is definitely a special and rewarding experience.”
The tour concluded with an open panel with several Latin-American and Spanish-speaking officers, who offered perspective on both Air Force life and the importance of joint international partnerships.
“This program is building lasting impressions and relationships with neighboring countries and militaries,” Mejias said. “Anytime we get to show others what the United States Air Force is truly about and build those bonds with future leaders, it is truly a win and a benefit to not only the Air Force and DoD, but our nation.”