By Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs / Published May 31, 2017
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Ramstein recently introduced a mentorship-based organization to support the Air Force Language Enabled Airman Program.
Kaiserslautern Military Community LEAP is looking for members knowledgeable in one or more foreign languages. LEAP is a product of the Air Force Culture and Language Center.
“The objective of LEAP is to have cross-culturally competent leaders across all U.S Air Force specialties with working level foreign language proficiency that can meet Air Force global mission requirements,” said Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya, 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of reports.
Sookmeewiriya, who serves as the president of KMC LEAP, says the program provides numerous opportunities for those who participate. Organization membership is open to anyone in the Ramstein area who has already been accepted into LEAP or is willing to learn a foreign language, he said.
“Don’t let your attained language go to waste,” said Sookmeewiriya. “The Air Force has many current and future needs for multi-lingual Airmen to assist with various Air Force missions. LEAP participants could gain improvement in reading and listening proficiency on the Defense Language Proficiency Test and increases in self-assessed speaking proficiency.”
KMC LEAP holds meetings quarterly. Members are willing to assist Airmen who are interested in LEAP with the application process and any other questions they might have, Sookmeewiriya added.
One Airman who has benefited from LEAP is Capt. Mumbi Ngugi, 86th Medical Squadron physician assistant.
Ngugi, who was born in Mississippi but went to school in Kenya, said the LEAP helped her improve her skills in the Swahili language. She said her involvement in the program enabled her to join a humanitarian mission in Africa.
She also encouraged multi-lingual Airmen to apply for LEAP, saying the program will give them an extra advantage not just in their day-to-day job, but their Air Force career as a whole.
“The world is like a global village now, each country needs each other,” Ngugi said. “If someone speaks Spanish, French, or Arabic, you will be able to be utilized more. It’s about utilizing the Airmen fully, that’s how this program benefits the Air Force. Because you’re not just doing your normal Air Force specialty, you’re utilized because of your extra language skills.”
Ngugi added that it is not just knowledge of a foreign language an Airman needs to successfully accomplish a mission overseas, but also familiarity of the host nation’s culture. She noted that cultural sensitivity is important to connecting with the locals wherever Airmen deploy, especially in certain Air Force jobs.
“The Air Force is all over the world, and in the medical field we have to be very sensitive to people’s cultures,” Ngugi said. “When I joined LEAP I told them I’ve always believed in respecting and learning about other cultures. This program gives you that. It exposes you to other cultures and helps you get better at accommodating others.”
While Sookmeewiriya and Ngugi come from two very different backgrounds, they both believe that the Air Force’s ability to understand people wherever they go is vital to mission accomplishment. This is why they encourage Airmen from every language and culture to join them in sharpening their skills and connect with the world.