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News | May 27, 2021

Naval cadet is first Mexican military officer to graduate from US Air Force Academy

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

A Mexican Navy cadet became the first Mexican military officer in history to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy on May 26, 2021. 

Twenty-four-year-old Itzel Sinai Chan Topete graduated from the Academy with a degree in civil engineering and commissioned as guardiamarina (ensign) in the Mexican Navy.  

Topete began her career as a naval cadet in Mexico.  In her second year as a cadet at the Mexican Naval Academy in Veracruz, Mexico, she received an opportunity to enroll at the U.S. Air Force Academy through a military exchange program. 

The program is part of the U.S. military’s bilateral commitment to the military relationship between the U.S and Mexico.  Military cooperation and opportunities such as this strengthen our relationship and enhance North American security and defense.  

“It was an incredible opportunity to see Ensign Topete graduate from one of the most prestigious military universities in the world,” said U.S. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. “Our partnership with Mexico grows even stronger when our young officers are trained side-by-side, sharing opportunities and seeing firsthand the unique relationship and shared interests between our two countries. Ensign Topete is an impressive young officer who will be an outstanding leader in the Mexican Navy.  Her success is a great example of the importance of promoting leadership opportunities for all, regardless of gender, rank or function.”  

Born in the city of Zapopan in Jalisco, Mexico, Topete earned a number of honors during her time in the United States, including being on the Dean’s and Commandant’s Honors List, and representing USAFA in national-level American Society of Civil Engineers competitions. 

“This is a great achievement for Ensign Topete and the entire Mexican armed forces. Her opportunity to attend a premier military institution builds our strategic partnership with the U.S., and prepares her for a long, successful career in the Mexican Navy," said Capt. Raul Rico, Mexican Navy Foreign Liaison Officer to U.S. Northern Command. 

The U.S. and Mexican militaries enjoy a close partnership in a variety of areas focused on North American defense and security. Over the past decade, that partnership has improved the operational compatibility of U.S. and Mexican forces, and led to the development of bilateral approaches to confront shared challenges and threats to the continent.  

Ensign Topete’s graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy is a tangible manifestation of the expanding cooperation between the two militaries. She is also representative of the Mexican Navy’s commitment to ensure equal access to professional opportunities, regardless of gender. Through bilateral collaboration on Women, Peace, and Security initiatives, U.S. NORTHCOM and its Mexican military partners acknowledge how eliminating barriers to female opportunity helps build strong, flexible and resilient defense organizations that maximize human potential to meet the complex defense challenges of the future.