213 Airmen selected for language program

by Jodi L. Jordan
Air Force Culture and Language Center Outreach Team

11/20/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- -- Air Force Culture and Language Center officials here announced selection of 213 applicants for the Language Enabled Airman Program Nov. 14.

The new participants in the career-long language and culture learning program will receive in-depth language training, ensuring the Air Force has a "bench" of language and culturally competent Airmen from across Air Force specialties, officials said.

Applicants for LEAP must exhibit some level of capability in a foreign language to enter into the program, and that capability is sustained and enhanced through online classes and language immersions. The new participants have abilities in 42 different languages, and come from a diverse cross-selection of Air Force specialties, including medical, acquisition, communications, support, special operations and aviation career fields.

"We're excited to have these new participants join the ranks of the more than 1,300 Airmen currently participating in LEAP," said Capt. Breezy Long, the LEAP operations manager. "Through LEAP, we're providing the cross-culturally competent, language-enabled Airmen that commanders need to accomplish their missions. We're not taking people out of their 'day jobs' for LEAP, but we're making sure these Airmen can accomplish their 'day jobs' in another language and another culture - something our service members are called to do more and more in today's complex global environment."

More than 700 Airmen applied for the LEAP fall 2013 selection board, with language, region and culture experts from across the Air Force evaluating more than 400 eligible candidate packages. The two-day review was accomplished Sept. 25-26. Of the more than 700 Airmen who initially applied, 329 active duty officers and 88 cadets from the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and the Air Force Academy met the completion standard and were evaluated. Forty-three different languages were represented in the eligible pool. The most-prevalent language was Spanish, with 121 applicants listing it as their primary foreign language. However, many other less-commonly seen languages were represented, including Amharic, Burmese, Hindi and Swedish.

Twelve experts from a variety of career fields evaluated the applicant packages on the demonstrated language ability and the applicants' potential to be successful LEAP participants. Language ability was demonstrated through applicant scores on Defense Language Proficiency Tests, as well as by overall academic performance with an emphasis on foreign language course performance. Other important factors were the applicants' performance and training reports and commander's endorsement letter.

"The board members' job was to find the most qualified volunteers who were both willing and able to use their language abilities to meet Air Force requirements," said Zachary Hickman, the AFCLC's deputy language division chief. "The experts on the selection board are representative of the communities who need these language enabled Airmen. They're uniquely qualified to select those Airmen for the program."

Board participants included Cara Aghajanian, the director of the Air Force Language, Region and Culture Program Office, as well as representatives from the medical, intelligence and special operations communities.

The AFCLC hosts two LEAP selection boards each year; one board is for officers and officer candidates, and one board is for enlisted applicants. The next board will focus on enlisted candidates and is planned for spring 2014. Details will be posted on the Air Force Portal. For more information, contact the LEAP administrators at afclc.language@us.af.mil.