Story and photos by Seth Maggard – AFCLC
Military cross-cultural excellence congregated under a single roof on April 22nd. Local service members and civilians were in attendance at the Air University’s first annual Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Symposium hosted by the Air Force Culture and Language Center.
The AFCLC coordinated the event with Defense Language Institute instructors from Professional Military Education schools here. The event was created to give the Maxwell/Gunter community a chance to present original research, share experiences, and establish connections with like-minded interest communities. Participants with knowledge and first-hand experiences in various countries presented a multitude of topics as they lectured, listened, and discussed important global military roles.
The day’s activities began with opening comments from MGen. Timothy Lahey, commander of the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, and a keynote speech from Dr. Mark Conversino, professor of military strategy at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. “Handling Germany’s Refugee Crisis,” “Culture, Traditions, and Beliefs in Addition to Language Learning in Japan,” and “What Does Religion Have to Do with Boko Haram?” were just a few of the topics covered in discussion panels, presentations, and roundtable conversations throughout the event.
Events like the LREC Symposium are opportunities for individuals of all levels of culture knowledgeability to gain familiarity and awareness about relevant topics of global societies.
The AFCLC’s mission responds to a growing focus and request for cross-culturally competent Airmen to be present worldwide with an understanding of the history, language, and social mannerisms of any country at any time.
Dr. Patricia Fogarty, the symposium’s co-coordinator, said “I am thankful to see all of these supporters that came to enhance their mission readiness by developing their cultural understanding. This is all possible through Air University’s support, and I look forward to expanding this event in future years.”
The environment was extremely productive and respectful as attendees were allowed time to relax and share a common interest in national beliefs. Officers and enlisted personnel from each branch of the US and international forces took time from their studies at the Air War College in order to provide input and gain insight on regional issues.
“I think that this was [a] great time to get people together that truly cared about African events,” said Group Captain Kelvin Aneke, a Nigerian Air Force student at the Air War College. “Often times, it is hard to connect and be concerned with what is going on over there, and this helped do that.”
This is the first event of this nature hosted by the AFCLC staff and many more are expected following the positive turnout. The primary focus was to create an opportunity for service members to network with other culturally competent individuals from around Air University, as well as the center’s far-reaching programs, such as the Language Enabled Airman Program. Several LEAP participants were able to attend, share, and even present their international experiences.
One LEAP participant, Maj Shai Tziony remarked, “There are a great deal of educational opportunities provided by the AFCLC. This symposium is a cornerstone of cultural communication and a great opportunity to showcase what we do to like-minded individuals.”
The AFCLC plans to continue its mission in culture education and readiness by offering events and programs that highlight this in an active calendar.
“I believe that each of us has a diverse background of international experiences and understanding,” remarked Dr. Sandra Schoder, a DLI instructor at the Air Command and Staff College and co-coordinator of the symposium.
“The only way to truly connect and share this knowledge is with events like this. I’m glad that this is now available in addition to the many other ways we support LREC education and training at Maxwell and for the Air Force.”