By Howard Ward, AFCLC Director

In philosophy, the law of contradiction states that “A” cannot be “A” and not “A” at the same time and in the same sense. Culture and language come close to defying that philosophical law in that they can be both lock and key…it just depends upon your perspective.

Many times, we fail to solve problems that are easily within our reach because we only have cultural awareness and view culture…generational, organizational, gender, ethnic, national…as a barrier and simply “cop out” under the assumption that inherent values and beliefs cannot be overcome to solve a wicked problem. In this sense, culture is a lock.

Those with cultural understanding that comes from investing time in education and training will naturally view culture as a starting point for mapping opportunities that will be acceptable and lead to solutions others perceived as unachievable. In this sense, culture is a key.

Through taking advantage of the marvelous opportunities offered through the Air Force Culture and Language Center, you are participating in a deliberate force development program with far more strategic importance than just gaining regional expertise. Through culture and language, you are learning to think in a way that considers a wider array of perspectives than someone who only has awareness or understands just their own culture.

One of our Language Enabled Airman Program participants solves a problem with joint coalition partner military members during a Language Intensive Training Event.


Breadth of perspective is the true measure of merit of force development that builds critical thinkers capable of solving the most vexing challenges to our nation’s security. Participants in our programs have an inherent advantage over those who have been developed tightly within a functional community. Technical expertise developed through the functional community coupled with the breadth that comes from investing in culture and language education is the pathway to growing senior leaders capable of driving truly innovative options for security, taking smart and calculated risks, and becoming Airmen capable of joint task force leadership as CSAF has challenged us to do.

Thanks to everyone who invests their own time to build cultural competency through one of our programs. Whether you realized it or not, you’ve entered a force development pipeline that opens a new world of opportunities for you to make a strategic contribution to our nation. You are learning to how to see the world from a perspective that will allow you to see a key to the future where others see a lock.

That’s how we will think our way to a bright and secure future. Lock or key…it’s up to you.

Culture and language…essential and operational.