As Commandant of the International Officer School and Director of Air University International Affairs, Col. Alex R. Ganster has an important job that carries geopolitical implications. He definitely feels the gravity of his responsibilities. But they don’t weigh on him; Ganster calls his role a “privilege.”
Where are you originally from? I am originally from San Diego but was raised in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. However, Katheryn and I plan on making Alabama our permanent home when we finally retire. We love the River Region.
How long have you been in the Air Force? I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in June 1994.
How long have you been Commandant for AU’s International Officer School? Following my tour as the Senior Defense Official in Ecuador, I took command of the International Officer School on July 7, 2020.
What are the main duties and responsibilities of your job? As the IOS Commandant and Air University’s Director for International Affairs, I am responsible for providing educational and administrative support to our international guests and their families. Additionally, I provide international affairs advice to Air University and Wing leaders, as well as coordinate and liaise with HQ AETC, HQ Air Force and U.S. embassies around the world.
What role does IOS play in Air University? IOS and the International Affairs Directorate play an essential role by enabling and delivering national security cooperation goals and objectives through international engagements. Our International Engagements branch makes it possible for partnerships and agreements between allied nations and Air University to exist. When foreign nations want to capitalize on what Air University excels at — whether it be transferal of information and/or educational services, military personnel exchanges, wargaming, research, mobile education teams or high-level senior leader engagements, — AU’s International Affairs team makes it happen. For the past 67 years, IOS, on behalf of Air University, continues to support national security cooperation strategic imperatives by supporting, preparing and partnering with our International Military Students (IMS) and their families.
IOS’ three preparatory courses ensure our IMS succeed during their participation, side by side with their American counterparts, in U.S. Air Force Professional Military Education (PME). Additionally, our International Operations Branch provides administrative support to all international students attending any AU school. Finally, the Operations Branch executes all required administrative actions regarding travel to and from their country, to include housing and pay where applicable.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? At its core, Security Cooperation is intrinsically a very personal endeavor. Our vision is to build global partnerships, one international leader at a time. The privilege to be entrusted with this mission is incredibly rewarding. As you know, the United States now faces a more competitive and dangerous international security environment than we have seen in generations. Peer competitors, especially Russia and China, and other adversaries continue aggressive efforts to negate our long-standing warfighting advantages and challenge U.S. prosperity, security and geopolitical standing.
IOS and the International Affairs team is advancing Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and AU priorities through strategic engagements and partnerships with ‘early wins’ that build to longer-term transformations in how we prepare warfighters for tomorrow’s fight. Unlike our competitors, our major operations are inherently coalition operations that benefit from the expertise and capabilities of our international partners.
Also, as a commander, I can’t help but to brag about how impressive the IOS faculty and the International Affairs Directorate staff are. Their skill and dedication to the mission are the catalyst to our success as they continue to perform above any expectation.
What are your interests and hobbies outside of work? Outside of family, I like to spend time working on old cars and enjoying sports. I grew up playing baseball, and that continues to be a passion today. Unfortunately, as a Chicago Cubs fan, I do not get many opportunities to celebrate. College football is my other passion. I married into an Auburn family and, as a result, was promptly converted—War Eagle!
Big Global Impact
Since its establishment in 1954, more than 12,000 international military students from 136 countries have completed Air University’s International Officers School program. Each year, a little more than 200 students attend AU programs annually, and Ganster and his team, with assistance from the 42nd Air Base Wing, support approximately 350 accompanying family members from about 80 countries.