LREC symposium: Addressing the critical role of cross-cultural competence in the Air Force

US Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox/Released

Maxwell AFB, Ala. - Lieutenant Colonel Kelli Moon, Department Chair, US Air Force Special Operations School Language and Culture Center, briefs Air University Language, Regional Expertise and Culture Symposium participants on the five cultural dimensions and how they impact the human domain, Mar. 30, 2017. LREC was hosted by the Air Force Culture and Language Center. (US Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox/Released)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The programs are heading to the printers, the speakers have been finalized, and preparations are well underway for Air University’s Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Symposium in Montgomery, Alabama. 

For the third year in a row, hundreds of people, including Air Force leaders, will visit Maxwell Air Force Base March 28-29 for the annual event. At the symposium, service members and historians will meet and discuss the importance of cross-cultural competence in the military. 

Brigadier General Matthew C. Isler will serve as one of keynote speakers. Brig. Gen. Isler is the Assistant Deputy Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and Assistant Vice Commander, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. The theme for LREC 2018: cultural agility. 

“The AU LREC Symposium brings together scholars and practitioners from across the DoD and the LREC enterprise to explore issues and initiatives that are designed to equip and prepare our Airmen for success in diverse and uncertain situations,” said Gregory Day, the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Director of Staff.

Years ago, Department of Defense officials emphasized how increasingly important it is for Airmen to be socially, linguistically, and culturally diverse. Many missions, from Africa to Afghanistan, require service members to interact with a variety of global populations. To address the DoD’s projected needs, the Air Force Culture and Language Center was formed. Since 2007, AFCLC faculty and staff have worked diligently to provide men and women in the Air Force with regional and cultural training. Using online courses and immersion trips, the center serves as a hub to Airmen looking to utilize their linguistic skills. 

“I don't see a future where the world is less connected, less global, or less coalition at the core. The ability to engage other nations as true partners will garner trust and influence decisions to work with us for mutual benefit,” said Howard Ward, the director of the Air Force Culture and Language Center. 

AFCLC experts will have the opportunity to showcase their studies and findings at the LREC symposium this month.

“Our symposium is a ‘family reunion’ where professionals from all services, the inter-agency, and civilian academia get together to share new research and celebrate the accomplishments of operators who used culture and language to accomplish their missions,” Ward said. 

Several of AFCLC’s Language Enabled Airman Program participants are scheduled to present at the symposium. In the LEAP program, Airmen travel to different countries for Language Intensive Training Experiences to hone in on their skills.

Capt. Dustin Tanen is a special operations pilot and a LEAP participant. He speaks French fluently and has used his experiences to further his career in the Air Force.

“I have provided real-time translation for officers from six French-speaking countries…my LITE training to Niger meant that the newly formed host-nation UN Peacekeeping battalion would be better trained before their year-long deployment to Mali, “Tanen said, “while I was there, I developed a syllabus for the battalion’s air liaison team and trained them (in French) on how to better incorporate air power to support a unit of their size”. 

Currently, 2,738 Airmen have participated in the LEAP program traveling to 106 different countries. Tanen, along with other LEAP members, will share their stories at the symposium.

“LEAP has enabled me to be a small puzzle piece fitting into the larger mosaic of the global Air Force mission,” Tanen said.