MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala --
The temperature was a bitter 16 degrees, ice coated the roads, and snow had just begun to fall when Dr. Tricia Fogarty and Air War College students arrived in Romania back in February.
“We were not sure how the weather would affect our plans,” she said, “but we made the most of this unique opportunity despite the severe conditions.”
Fogarty, the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s assistant professor of Cross Cultural Relations, traveled to Moldova and Romania in the frigid weather with students from Air War College and two military faculty members. The trip was part of AWC’s Regional and Cultural Studies curriculum. The RCS program provides an in-depth study of a region through academic and field studies. This one focused on southeast Europe.
This was the first time in seven years that a group traveled from AWC to Romania. Fogarty was asked to lead the class because of her prior research and work experience in the region. Students did the majority of logistical work for the trip, while the military faculty participated in both administrative and academic discussions.
“The reason for focusing on these two countries was very deliberate,” Fogarty said. “I chose Romania and Moldova because they represent well the political, military, economic and cultural issues in the region as a whole. Both have gone through difficult communist periods and then through the chaos of the early post-communist era. However, Romania became a member of NATO and the EU, while Moldova did not, largely due to a frozen conflict within its borders. The two countries also share a lot of history and culture; the majority language in each place is Romanian, and parts of each country have been united in the past. Their shared culture allows us to understand their political and economic differences in a more nuanced way.”
The team also included Lt. Col. Mircea Biagini, a native speaker of Romanian. He accompanied the group as part of the advanced AFCLC Language Intensive Training Events program. Biagini also is a member of the AFCLC’s Language Enabled Airman Program. LEAP was developed to help Airmen sustain their language and culture skills by using a two-part training method: online courses, eMentor classes, and immersions or LITEs.
“Lt. Col. Biagini’s skills were essential to the trip’s success,” stated Fogarty. “He helped us through every interaction where Romanian was needed, and served as a cultural advisor to the students, too.”
The AWC RCS is one of several classes to help develop cross-culturally competent Airmen that Fogarty has taught in the past six years.
“This type of trip definitely improves students’ cultural competence through being able to apply the knowledge they build in the classroom through interactions with key individuals in those countries. We had extremely informative visits with the U.S. embassy staffs in each country. The students were able to speak with representatives of international organizations, local non-governmental organizations, business leaders and even the Romanian Air Forces Academy. The group witnessed firsthand the importance of this region to U.S. foreign policy and partnerships. We only had to cancel one event because of the weather,” Fogarty added. “The students, admin team and LEAP advisor worked together seamlessly to adjust our schedule with meaningful engagements when the snowstorm closed roads, embassies and businesses. It was an excellent overall experience for everyone, I believe.”