By Maj Rommel “Vill” Villanueva
Editor’s Note: Major Rommel “Vill” Villanueva participated in an eight-week Language Intensive Training Event (LITE) in early 2016. The focus of his LITE was to apply his Tagalog language in a culturally and regionally immersive environment while supporting bilateral partnership initiatives in the region. The following commentary, provided by Major Villanueva reflects his personal experiences and not necessarily the viewpoints of the Air Force Culture and Language Center.
My recent Language Intensive Training Event (LITE) experience, much like the early 90s television show Quantum Leap, took me into a very unexpected and unbelievable realm. The Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) created this opportunity as part of its advanced language training for Airmen with language proficiencies, but in order to get the full perspective, we must go back in time.
While growing up in the Philippines, I passed the U.S. Embassy countless times, and the picture instilled in my mind was the main gate with the Chancery Building in the background; I knew that I would never set foot inside. No other thoughts, I just knew. My Dad, a 25-year veteran of the Philippine military, often said phrases like “JUSMAG” in reference to the building, which was almost 30 years ago.
Fast forward to my advanced LITE, I freely roamed the U.S. Embassy grounds as the Executive Officer for the Chief of Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), located in the Chancery Building. It was like a dream come true with provisions through the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s (AFCLC) LEAP for me to have that kind of opportunity. Directly through the office window, I stared at the inside view of the same main gate from my childhood. It may not be the Brandenburg Gate type of view, but it was surreal to me.
Simply being there was not everything, my LITE included several once in a lifetime opportunities, such as representing the U.S. Ambassador to a WWII commemoration. With my language, culture skills, and LEAP training, I facilitated the recovery efforts for missing transoceanic equipment and even participated in a bilateral cyber interoperability board with the cyber leads from each branch of service within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
To say the least, I am extremely grateful to the LEAP program for granting me this opportunity, to not only apply my language and culture skills, but also contribute to enhancing relations between Philippine and US militaries.