By Maj Thomas Risner, 818 MSAS | AFCLC
Debre Zeyit — Amharic is not a widespread language, but it is spoken by the 100+ million inhabitants of Ethiopia. This country in Africa is one of the few to have resisted colonization and has a proud heritage and culture.
The United States has received many immigrants from this East African country, and a few of them have even answered the call to serve in the diverse military branches of their newly adopted home. You can currently count the number of Amharic speakers in the Air Force on one hand, making them a rare asset to our capabilities. TSgt Theodros “Teddy” Midru is one of these diamonds in the rough, and has proven his worth over and over again on a recent Building Partnership Capacity (BPC) mission by the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron (MSAS) to Ethiopia. This squadron of Air Advisors focuses on training their African counterparts in all aspects of Air Mobility, from base defense, to vehicle and aircraft maintenance, logistics, and operations.
A Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) participant since 2014, TSgt Midru brought his Amharic skills up to a working professional level through LEAP’s online language training school, the eMentor program, and then was selected to attend a LEAP language immersion, or Language Intensive Training Event (LITE), in Ethiopia. He spent the first part of his LITE learning the technical and professional Amharic required of the 818 MSAS BPC mission. The second part of his LITE was spent living, eating and working with the 818 MSAS team, participating in daily meetings and lesson preparations. He also had the opportunity to once again immerse himself in
the culture of his youth, enjoying local foods like tibs, firfir and enjera along the way. Daily needs and traveling were made easier for the team with his knowledge and skill.
This particular MSAS mission focused on training the Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) on various aspects of aircraft maintenance. TSgt Midru not only speaks the rare language of the country, but as a maintainer himself, he speaks the job-specific lingo. Anyone who has been in the military long enough is aware that speaking English is not enough to get by in an operational environment.
Acronyms and specialized, technical terms permeate every aspect of an Airman’s life. A regular, contracted interpreter may be able to translate words and sentences, but only Theodros, with his specialized LEAP and Air Force training, was able to go above and beyond to facilitate the exchange of the ideas and concepts behind the words.
Although not an official member of the 818 MSAS team, Theodros was a key part of a very successful mission. The proud ETAF Airmen opened up in a way they may not have without him in the classroom.
As part of the 818 MSAS leadership and a fellow LEAP participant, I certainly hope to see TSgt Theodros Midru join us on more missions to Ethiopia.