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GOPAC, COMPAC: Shaping airpower with education

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  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

Inside of a conference room at the Air Force Culture and Language Center, general officers and commanders have been quietly meeting, training, and preparing pre-deployment and pre-assignment for their journeys around the world.

“There is a great deal of preparation to be completed before deploying anywhere, but this is one opportunity that stands out. Every graduate that I have spoken to made sure to tell me not to miss this course and its amazing training.” Col Charles Corcoran said about the session he attended before traveling overseas.    

Described as some of the Air Force’s “best training opportunities”, over the years, AFCLC has quickly become a preferred pit stop for senior leaders seeking culture, region, and language training. Known as GOPAC or General Officer Pre-Deployment Acculturation Courses, the training structure was developed in 2009. At the time, the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force requested that the Air Force Chief of Staff ensure general officers being deployed in the Middle East had language and region training. GOPAC formed as a result of this request. Once AFCLC started offering the courses, the Air Force mandated officers in certain positions attend GOPAC prior to deploying to Afghanistan or Iraq.

For years, AFCLC focused specifically on training general officers heading to the Middle East. As word spread about GOPAC, the program grew, new countries were added, and the curriculum expanded to include general officers and commanders.

In 2018, COMPAC or Commander Pre-Assignment Acculturation Courses were born.

“It’s really spreading by word of mouth,” said Mary Newbern, head of AFCLC’s Expeditionary Programs, “the more people hear about it, the more phone calls we get from people volunteering to come and take a course”.

Dr. Jordan, AFCLC’s Assistant Professor of Regional and Cultural Studies (Asia), led the Center’s first COMPAC this year. The first session in a new chapter as AFCLC accepts commanders and others to take part in this training. Dr. Jordan researched for months to help her student Col T. Doan prepare for his journey in Kadena. His course focused on the language and the political environment. Specifically, how to operate as a Colonel and the lead on base and also, how to build lasting relationship in the community and form partnerships that will help the Air Force long-term.

“I would have never received this training in another forum,” Col Doan said, “state of the art facilities with detailed culture and region training”.

Individualized Training

Designed in-house by AFCLC’s experts and PHD’s, the executive leadership curriculum tailored to fit the needs of each individual student. Ranging from one day of formal instruction to five days of extensive coursework, each session is based on the officer or commander’s job, assignment, and experience in the country. AFCLC faculty members conduct interviews with the students and other military officials to get a good scope of the job description, language requirements, and overall expectations. Once the faculty members determine the curriculum and lesson plans for the individualized course, they often reach out to other cultural and regional academics to offer input.

“We work closely with DLI {Defense Language Institute}, Air University, and other organizations. We pull in people with a variety of expertise to make sure that the officers and commanders are fully prepared when we leave here,” Newbern said.  

When they leave, the students have a broad idea of key cultural concepts that will help with specific mission objectives, basic cross-cultural communication skills to negotiate and work with translators, and a basic understanding of native speech and cultural difference. From day one, the officers are introduced to language and regional analysis training and the topics advance as the courses progress. Each session ends with a practical exercise to help them gain some real-world experience before they leave.

“The training was a perfect mixture of subject matter and professionally delivered lessons that constantly built on my confidence,” said Brig Gen David Hicks, a recent graduate of the course.

GOPAC/COMPAC and the Continuum of Learning

AFCLC’s GOPAC/COMPAC courses fall in line with Air Education and Training Command’s Continuum of Learning initiative. AETC’S Continuum of Learning model is a shift to better focus how Airmen learn by integrating education, training and experience in ways that allow them to learn anytime, anywhere throughout their careers. The end goal of the continuum is to create a culture of life-long learners.

By offering individualized executive leadership education pre-deployment and pre-assignment, AFCLC is using AETC’s “on-command and on-demand learning” system. Giving commanders and general officers a certain level of language and cultural expertise and creating courses to fit their personal and professional career goals.

“AFCLC’s senior executive education courses, as well as all of our education and training efforts, reflect the three pillars of the continuum of learning:  learner driven, career spanning, and individually tailored based upon previous education and experience.  We have tailored programs for junior Airmen and senior leaders with a robust IT architecture and assessment process that helps our faculty deliver quality and relevance to learners.  Culture and language, delivered through the continuum of education, better prepares Airmen to successfully employ airpower as they work with partner air forces and populations where they deploy,” said Mr. Howard Ward, the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Director.




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