AFCLC Outreach Team
May was a memorable month for U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Svetlana Alviar. She celebrated more than a decade of service, embraced a new promotion, and returned to her home country, Bulgaria, for a joint exercise.
“I just hit my 11-year mark in the Air Force and I was able to return to Bulgaria and work with the Bulgarian and Romanian Air Forces,” Alviar said. “It’s been a great experience and I really look forward to what’s to come”.
The confident Airman is an experienced public health instructor, currently working on bachelor’s degree in health management, and has a laundry list of awards and achievements under her belt. But, she admits that when she initially enlisted in 2007 she was anxious young woman who was going through a rough patch in her life.
“I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and I lived there until I was about 20 years old. In 2001 I got married and my husband, at the time, was in the U.S. Army. In 2003, we separated and we moved to the States,” she said. “Shortly after I joined the U.S. Air Force and we divorced. So, my reasons for enlisting were very personal. I was looking for a steady income, a way to support myself, and career opportunities.”
Once enlisted, Alviar quickly discovered the Language Enabled Airman Program. Growing up, she spoke Bulgarian, Russian, English, and German; skills she said she struggled to maintain when she moved to the United States.
“I heard about LEAP at my very first base, but at the time, I didn’t qualify. Years later, I applied and I was accepted into the program” she said.
Alviar had not met the minimum time in service requirements to participate in the program. She spent her foundational years building job-related skills and learning to be an Airman, never forgetting about the language program she had heard so much about.
As a LEAP participant, Alviar has been able to sustain her many language skills by taking online eMentor language courses and going on Language Intensive Training Events (LITEs) or immersions. Most recently, she traveled back to Bulgaria for a LITE where she supported the Thracian Eagle exercise. The joint exercise aims to improve the readiness of Bulgarian and Romanian Air Forces and improve interoperability. Alviar was able to help and use her language skills in the process.
“During this LITE I accompanied a team from 435 CRSS and SMEs in their respective areas. Their objective was to improve preparation of Bulgarian Air Force personnel for exercise of contemporary tactics, techniques, and procedures and work within international environment. Working as the interpreter during the training days, I built a rapport with the Bulgarian Air Force members because I spoke their language. They felt comfortable enough to have conversations on variety of everyday topics and I believe they appreciated having a person who spoke Bulgarian during the training,” Alviar said. “We were also able to see quite a few local historical and cultural areas. This LITE definitely helped me to practice my language skills as well as to develop them further”.
As Alviar reflects on her recent LITE, she said her long-term plans remain the same: continue to serve her country and sustain her language skills in LEAP.
“Through LEAP, I was able to be part of building relationships and see the importance of developing our allies firsthand. It was a privilege to work with the Air advisors and SMEs and to be part of this exercise,” she said.