Coffee, Cameroon and the Corps: A LEAP Experience

1st Lt Saltin communicates lessons provided by US Marine instructors on piracy deterrence tactics to Cameroonian Marines.

1st Lt. Ariel Saltin communicates lessons provided by US Marine instructors on piracy deterrence tactics to Cameroonian Marines. Saltin traveled to Cameroon with LEAP in order to provide joint training support

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- As an Air Force Academy graduate early in her career, 1st Lt. Ariel Saltin, 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron, looks for every possible opportunity to provide her skills to enhance her surroundings. Her determination extends from a great deal of success in her Logistics job, which has her currently stationed on Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Time, knowledge, strength, and many other sacrifices have been made of the young Lt., yet she actively seeks additional opportunities to enhance Airpower, and another of those opportunities lies within her French language capabilities. Because of her gusto and knowledge, she took these French skills to new distances, not on some European air base, but through a unique language training opportunity with the US Marine Corps in Cameroon.

In 2014, Saltin gained a great deal of traction in putting her collegiate minor in French to good use when she was selected to the Language Enabled Airman Program. “I studied abroad and took every upper level [French] class available, so LEAP was a no-brainer for me to continue perfecting my skills when my professor told me about the program once I commissioned,” she said.

As a new LEAP participant, she quickly jumped into language training through LEAP’s eMentor program, taking a 48-hour synchronous online course during her off-duty hours. This helped her improve her French scores to a 3/3, a very high score on the Defense Language Proficiency Test.

After this marked improvement, Saltin became eligible for one of LEAP’s advanced Language Intensive Training Events.

Chris Chesser, the LEAP office’s LITE program manager, explained “A LITE is a TDY, averaging 30 days, that places Airmen in linguistically, regionally, and culturally complex settings. LEAP participants most commonly attend a four-week language school, while some LITEs are more exercise or security cooperation focused, with or without a classroom component.”

For Lt Saltin, her LITE came in the form of blended approach—classroom education followed by hands-on practice through facilitating US Marine Corps training of the Cameroon military on countering Boko-Haram and offshore piracy. She said, “I knew that I would do in-country immersion training, but had no idea that the program would give me the opportunity to support real-world missions … It was a really great surprise.”

She spent the first two weeks of her LITE in Rockville, Md. at the Multi Lingual Solutions Headquarters taking intensive French classes. “It was honestly the best preparation I could’ve asked for,” she said “My confidence was so high, that I don’t think I would’ve done near as good of a job without [it].”

From there, it was off to the second leg of her LITE, the intelligence security cooperation event between the US and Cameroonian Navy and Marine Corps. “We [the US Sailors, Marines and Lt Saltin] would spend a large portion of our evenings planning out the next day’s lessons. We would work on timing, adjust phrasing for clarity, and consider possible culture barriers,” she remarked.

The classes provided to the Cameroonians spanned about 8 hours a day, only stopping for lunch and a (local customary) mandatory coffee break. The rest of the time was spent speaking directly between US instructors and Cameroonian students.

“There was a ton of lingo and dialect that I did not understand, but picked up on very quickly,” she said “The operation was fast-paced, and there wasn’t much time to stumble over my own words, so there was a huge amount of value for my own language growth as well as assisting with the joint instruction sessions.”

Back at Joint Base Charleston, 1st Lt. Ariel Saltin has resumed her normal duties as a logistics officer, but with a new wealth of knowledge, as well as proving herself to be an asset to Air Force interoperability.

“I can’t say enough about LEAP,” she concluded “where else can you get language training on your own time, travel to other countries, and get paid to operate in a joint capacity like this?”

Her sentiments are exactly what LEAP is aimed at doing for each of its other 2,144 + willing and able participants.

Saltin summed up her experiences perfectly as she ended with, “Any time you can go to another country and meet new people, it gives you new perspective. Anytime you can travel to that country with LEAP training, you know you are going to be able to apply that perspective [throughout your] career.”