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Hispanic Heritage Springboards Ability to Foster Relations with Partner Nations

  • Published
  • By Marisa Cole
During National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, the Department of Defense recognizes the contributions made by and the important presence of Hispanics in the United States military, and celebrates their heritage and culture.  The Air Force Medical Service salutes its own Hispanic Airmen who contribute to the mission of the Air Force on a daily basis.

Col. Antonio Delgado, an International Health Specialist serving in the AFMS, is such an Airman using his Spanish language fluency and understanding of Hispanic culture to further the health security goals of our nation.

Delgado is a native of Colombia who earned his medical degree and served as a medical officer in the Colombian military, where he acquired extensive experience in tropical and emergency medicine. He came to the U.S. in the early 90s and worked in academic medicine in Chicago for over a decade before realizing that he missed the military medical life. 

Delgado joined the U.S. Air Force in 2007 and soon began using his language skills to assist in a variety of ways. While based in San Antonio, he provided translation services for visiting Latin American delegations. Then later he taught formal training courses in aerospace medicine. He quickly became the “go-to” person for any Spanish speaking needs, especially for training courses. While stationed at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Delgado supported the 621st Contingency Response Wing and 12 AF Aerospace and human factors’ missions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia.

Currently providing subject matter expertise to the Defense Institute for Medical Operations, Delgado uses his Spanish language fluency and flight surgeon expertise to teach a variety of courses. Just this past summer he traveled with DIMO to Mexico City to teach Casualty Evacuation and Critical Care courses to Mexican military medical personnel. Delgado said, “Being able to teach these courses in Spanish is critical for two important reasons. First, it avoids translators inadvertently missing the nuances unique to the presenter. Second, it avoids the oversimplification of the medical complexities. It is also important to understand the cultural nuances that distinguish Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Bolivians, etc., much like the nuances that exist between the U.S. and British English language speakers.”

Sharing his medical expertise and experience with partner nations is a critical component of the IHS mission – ensuring interoperability and defense institution building for the PNs, thereby enhancing their preparedness for any unforeseen natural or man-made disaster. Cultural competence when working with representatives from foreign countries is critical to building lasting relationships with the PNs, another critical component of the IHS program.

Delgado points to the importance of keeping his language skills current through courses available through the Language Enabled Airmen Program, part of the Air Force Language and Culture Center.  “Even for a native Spanish speaker like me, LEAP offers courses at different levels of proficiency so that I can take a course that helps me hone my language skills by improving my vocabulary and ability to convey ideas at a higher level.”

Delgado also uses his language skills in his role as the liaison to the Inter-American Defense College, which is sponsored by the Organization of American States. Students of the college are selected by their country to attend the school located at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C., to earn a master’s in Political Science. As an IHS liaison to the program, Delgado provides language and cultural support and travels as the group’s medic on school-sponsored cultural trips. “Most of the students in this program speak only Spanish, and while they do have translators, my fluency in Spanish is critical when addressing medical needs.”

Before taking on his current role as the Interim Director of the IHS program, Delgado was the IHS Liaison to the National Guard Bureau, a position he continues to hold.  In this capacity he is responsible for the total integration of National Guard resources within the IHS program. He plans, coordinates, and assists with National Guard involvement in Global Health Engagement security agenda activities.

Delgado also liaisons National Guard international health issues within and among Command Surgeons, Combatant Commanders, the Air National Guard Surgeon, Army National Guard Surgeon, and the National Guard Joint Surgeon along with relevant international agencies. As consultant to the National Guard Bureau International Affairs Division, he helps develop policy for international partner nation health capacity building and security cooperation initiatives and assists the 70 State Partnership Program teams to develop strategy for global health engagement with their partner countries and the Interagency.


Delgado’s Hispanic roots and medical expertise provided the springboard for him to help foster important relationships with Hispanic partner nations, as well as provide relevant training to our partner nation military medical personnel to ensure interoperability, all furthering the global health security goals of our nation.


***The IHS Program was established in 2000, foreseeing the need for Air Force medics to be on the cutting edge of global health issues in order to keep pace with evolving military strategy. Full-time IHS staff support global health engagement at Combatant Commands, Major Commands, and Air Force Component Commands. These IHS professionals enable another 300 Special Experience Identifier (SEI) Airmen at military treatment facilities around the globe, applying demonstrated language skills and cultural experience to respond to global health engagement assignments and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Since the inception of the program, more than 400 Airmen have been trained and participated in hundreds of IHS missions that positively impact partner nations’ civilian and military personnel.

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