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NEWS | April 19, 2021

U.S. Space Force captain makes history at IAAFA

By Airman 1st Class Joshua T. Crossman Buckley Garrison Public Affairs

A U.S. Space Force captain’s cultural and language background helped make USSF history.

U.S. Space Force Capt. Angelo Centeno, 2nd Space Warning Squadron weapons and tactics flight commander, stationed at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, was one of the first two USSF members to attend and graduate from the Inter-American Squadron Officer Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

“The Inter-American Squadron Officer Course was an amazing experience and opportunity,” Centeno said. “The course focused on developing leadership and team-building skills, giving young officers tools to become better leaders and learn to work with people from all walks of life.”

ISOC is located at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, or IAAFA. It is similar to the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, but is taught solely in Spanish and is attended by Latin American and U.S. military officers with the grade of O-3 who possess the ability to speak fluent Spanish.

“I also saw it as a way to speak Spanish for more than just a few minutes a day,” Centeno said. “To be honest, sometimes I miss speaking Spanish with friends and family, so it was a way of recharging and feeling connected to my culture and heritage.”

Centeno was born in Germany and lived there until the age of 7. There he became fluent in both German and English. In 2001, Centeno and his family moved to Puerto Rico, where he learned to speak Spanish. He lived there until he was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force in 2016. 

“We had an awesome class of U.S. military officers and international military officers from Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic,” Centeno said. “Each of my classmates taught me a lesson about approachability and humility. It is incredible to see how different and alike our military forces and personnel are.”

This course shows how allied mission partners, alongside the U.S Air Force and USSF, conduct their operations, and it helps create new perspectives on accomplishing missions through diversity.

“I think it shows how diversity is beneficial and illustrates the impact of how thinking differently can have an impact on mission success and that there is value in speaking other languages and having different cultural backgrounds,” Centeno said.

Although Centeno had the opportunity to attend this course and further increase his leadership skills, he was not the only USSF member to attend ISOC.

USSF Capt. Natalia Pinto, former 6th Space Warning Squadron operations support deputy flight commander, was a fellow Space Delta 4 Guardian and attended the same course with Centeno. A few weeks after their graduation, she departed DEL 4 and joined Space Delta 9 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. 

“Capts. Centeno and Pinto truly represented Space Delta 4 by not only being the first Guardians to attend ISOC but also by becoming distinguished graduates as well,” said USSF Col. Richard Bourquin, DEL 4 commander. 

To become a distinguished graduate, an individual must receive a 98% grade point average or higher and is based on the whole-person concept rather than on academics or performance skills alone. 

“Having leaders like Capt. Centeno and Capt. Pinto is important and allows for us to strengthen our allied partnerships and build a more diverse and inclusive force, two of our key Space Delta 4 values,” Bourquin said. “I couldn’t be prouder to have individuals like Capt. Centeno and Capt. Pinto, who will continue to help develop a greater Space Force.”

Centeno is currently working on completing his Master’s in Space Studies, which he hopes to finish by spring 2022, and hopes to encourage others to pursue educational opportunities.

“There are lots of opportunities provided by the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force that most members don’t know about, such as the Inter-American Squadron Officer Course,” Centeno said. “I encourage people to put in the time and do the research because the next best experience is out there, and you just have to look for it.”