Story by Christopher R. Chesser, AFCLC | 28 October 2016
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFCLC) — Here are a couple of numbers to consider: 5.879 X 1012 miles is the distance light travels in one year; 3.9 X 106 miles is the distance Language Enabled Airman Program, or LEAP, participants journeyed in FY16.
While our astronomical units were not quite as impressive as those of your average physicist, it’s hard to beat the fact that 594 USAF professionals moved four million miles to 59 countries in 365 days; not to mention their thousands of human interactions, billions of words in 42 strategic languages, and unquantifiable positive change to international partnerships for light years to come.
Language Intensive Training Events, or LITEs, are an integral component of the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s strategic plan to facilitate impactful, relevant education and training for our inventory of 2,455 LEAP participants. The AFCLC offers LITEs as the TDY complement to LEAP’s eMentor online synchronous learning. This career-spanning education and training system enables Airmen to focus primarily on their career fields while enhancing and sustaining linguistic and intercultural skills. Ultimately LEAP participants are postured to work seamlessly with partner Air Forces whenever called upon.
A LITE is a TDY, averaging 30 days, that places Airmen in linguistically, regionally, and culturally complex settings. LEAP participants are placed in a LITE every three years on average, and these events are tailored to meet participants’ language learning needs. The most common LITE is a four-week language school designed for full immersion with a homestay family, cultural excursions, classes and homework — and little to no English. Other LITEs are more exercise or security cooperation focused, with or without a classroom component.
With tailor-made flexibility and the needs of the warfighter in mind, the AFCLC developed LITEs that impress far beyond the miles traveled. It’s the innovative “firsts,” big program accomplishments, and dedication of each LEAP officer and NCO that made all the difference. Here’s a small sample:
- FORTY-NINE language school partnerships, including five new partnerships with programs in Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Benin, Mexico, and Germany.
- EIGHTEEN exercises through which LEAP participants facilitated intercultural communication while growing their language skills and regional understanding.
- EIGHT LEAP participants who took part in a LITE while completing Squadron Officer School and NCO Academy alongside their partner nation counterparts in Bogota, Colombia.
- FIVE new area studies immersions (ASIs), designed and implemented in Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Morocco, and the Philippines, adding to our existing ASIs in South Korea and Colombia.
- THREE Region and Cultural Studies group partnerships by which LEAP participants provided language support to Air War College while benefiting from interaction with senior military leaders.
Besides developing the program capacity to effectively meet diverse language learning needs and build programs on a global scale, the AFCLC refined the means by which we assess our program’s strengths and areas for improvement. At the close of each quarter, the AFCLC Assessments Division reviews participant’s end-of-course survey inputs and prepares a report for AFCLC Director-level review. The team then holds a hot wash and makes adjustments to improve the quality of logistical and academic support, program planning, and processes to support future LITEs. Throughout the year, our team has made significant improvements to the quality of participants’ transportation, lodging, safety, and overall academic experience.
Finally, the AFCLC stays abreast of AF language utilization. Participant survey inputs and countless anecdotes offer compelling evidence that, following their LITES, LEAP participants are being utilized in exercises and deployments at a rapidly growing rate, due in large part to the reputation LEAP participants are gaining across the Services. DoD organizations such as the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and Defense Institute for Medical Operations consistently turn to LEAP participants. Furthermore, the percentages of LEAP participants selected for vector into career paths such as Foreign Affairs Officer is increasing each year.
To say that we’re light years ahead of where we were when the first LITE participant traveled in 2009 is an understatement. LEAP is not only boasting impressive numbers but more importantly enabling Air Power through relevant, timely, and flexible education and training.
With each month, we improve program quality and outreach. The sky is indeed the limit. Who knows how far we’ll go next year?