In 1966, France chose to withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. As a part of that decision, the forces of allied nations stationed on French soil were asked to leave. Military leaders in both France and the United States who had served together in both peacetime and in war feared that the loss of personal contacts between the officer corps of each nation would hinder mutual understanding and cooperation in the future.

    In 1968, Sargent Schriver, the U. S. Ambassador to France, proposed that France and the United States exchange military personnel in order to promote understanding and improve future relations.

    This idea was warmly received by both General Thomas Moorman, then Superintendent of the U. S. Air Force Academy, and his counterpart at the École de l'Air , Général Claude Grigaut.  These two leaders met in November 1968 to discuss the feasibility of a mutual exchange between the two Air Force academies. 

    One of the key players in staffing an agreement was Paul Aunis, then the "Officier de Liaison" at the Academy. His contribution to the creation and implementation of the Exchange was crucial at a most critical time in the relations between the two countries.

    In August 1969, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by General Moorman and Général Grigaut allowing for the Exchange of not more than 10 cadets from each academy. That same month, nine U. S. cadets arrived at Salon-de-Provence while six French "aspirants" came to the USAF Academy.  In December of 1969, General Moorman, in a letter to General Ryan, then USAF Chief of Staff, declared the Exchange a resounding success.

    Since that first Exchange, over four hundred cadets and "aspirants" have participated in the exchange and both air forces have garnered enormous long-term benefits. Exchangers from both nations have served as exchange officers, attachés, staff officers in combined headquarters, and as operators in international coalitions, side-by-side with their French and American counterparts. 

    Throughout the world, Exchangers are constantly called upon to escort visitors and provide interpretation services for foreign visitors, and to serve as goodwill ambassadors in international events.

    Richard Wolsztynski, a 1969 Exchange "aspirant," became the first Exchanger to attain the rank of general officer in 1995. In 2002, he became the Chief of Staff of the French Air Force and visited the Air Force Academy in 2002.

     The first former Exchange U. S. cadet to put on stars is Teddie MacFarland of Exchange 1970.  Three American Exchange cadets have become astronauts and their international experiences have been helpful to them in their participation in multinational space programs.

    There have been many improvements made to the Exchange over the years. Flying programs have been added and improved. A host family program has been established. Various tours and orientations have grown, all with the objective of improving each cadet's knowledge of the other country, its air force, its language and its people. Moreover, cadets complete the program with a thorough understanding of the importance of cooperation and dialog between the two long-standing, proud allies who share the same democratic values and ideals. 

    This program has also made it possible for third-year École de l'Air engineering students to participate in research programs at NASA-Houston and at the U. S. Air Force Academy prior to completing their studies in Salon-de-Provence. A number of past exchange members have also attended and graduated from the other country's test pilot school and advanced military schools.

     AND, of course, lifetime friendships are an added bonus of this premier  international cadet program.