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Airmen leaping into a world of language and culture

Airmen leaping into a world of language and culture

The Language Enabled Airman Program connects Airmen across the Air Force who possess the capability to communicate in one or more foreign languages. The program began in 2009 and now has more than 2,000 participants. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Tammie Ramsouer)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

In recent years, the Department of Defense has emphasized the need to have Airmen who are proficient in foreign languages and culture.

Within the Air Force, programs like the Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) are designed to train leaders who already possess a second language and are looking to learn more. LEAP began in 2009 and has grown to almost 3,000 Airmen - men and women dedicated to communicating in one or more foreign languages.

“The Air Force for a long time has been in the business of creating what we call professional linguists,” said Gregory Day, Air Force Culture and Language Center director of staff, "having Airmen within different career fields who are bilingual, has proven to be a great asset for any possible situation that may come up on a special duty assignment or deployment."

Capt. Richard Uber, Air Force Institute of Technology assistant professor of the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, is one of these Airmen that took the opportunity to participate in the program. He joined LEAP in 2011.

“I spent the first 10 years of my career as an enlisted linguist,” Uber said. “So when I commissioned I was looking for an opportunity to continue to use the language skills I had obtained.”

Uber went through LEAPs extensive two-part training program; the eMentor and Language Intensive Training Events (LITE).

The eMentor is a synchronous online language course where Airmen work with native language instructors to hone in on their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

During LITE training, participants spend 30 days on a temporary duty assignment in the country or region of the language that they speak. This training gives them the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture and utilize their linguistic skills. 

Uber was sent to China for his first LITE training. Since 2012, he has gone on three immersion trainings throughout China.

“Learning a language, whether it’s through your family or through study, is something that takes a long time,” Uber said. “What LEAP provided me, was an additional avenue to keep doing the linguistic training and keep the Chinese language a part of my career development as an officer."

"The training helps Airmen increase their skills, as well as, distinguish and utilize them throughout their Air Force career without pulling them from their career fields," Day said.

All Airmen of any background and job can apply to the program.

For more information about LEAP or how to apply, contact the Air Force Culture and Language Center at 334-953-7729, visit their website at culture.af.mil or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.