There and Back Again… and Here and There: Medical officer uses LEAP and DIMO to use French skills anywhere

In 2011, Maj Kim applied to LEAP to help sustain her French proficiency.

In 2011, Maj Kim applied to LEAP to help sustain her French proficiency.


Managed by the Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC), the Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP), is a career-spanning program to sustain, enhance, and assist with the utilization of the existing language skills of general purpose forces. LEAP has postured one of its participants, Maj Sylvia Kim, to carve out a unique career path thanks to its intensive training program.

The Los Angeles native began studying French from a young age and completed her final year of undergraduate studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris, majoring in Philosophy and French Literature. She commissioned as a health services administrator in 2005, and earned a Special Experience Identifier (SEI) with the USAF’s International Health Specialist (IHS) program in 2007.

In 2011, Maj Kim applied to LEAP to help sustain her French proficiency. Upon acceptance, she started participating in LEAP’s eMentor program–live on-line language classes where participants practice their language to enhance their reading, listening, writing and speaking abilities. She has consistently returned to these courses over the past four years to maintain these perishable skills.

Maj Kim was also provided opportunities to undertake LEAP’s language and culture immersions, called Language Intensive Training Events (LITEs). During Maj Kim’s first LITE to Algiers, Algeria, she translated correspondence between the US Embassy and the Algerian military as well as assisted the FBI and DEA with a counternarcotics/counter-drug trafficking and border security course for the Algerian Gendarmerie. 

She also provided curriculum support and translated critical medical and healthcare management coursework into French for the Defense Institute for Medical Operations (DIMO), a part of IHS’s Global Health Engagement. By partaking in these “hands-on” activities, she was able to practice the skills she gained through her eMentor courses, in the African Francophone culture, and through her mastery of French medical terminology and concepts.

In Maj Kim’s most recent 2015 LITE to Paris, France, she assisted the US Embassy by coordinating the movement of over 700 incoming PAX, fuel trucks and other military aircraft and also engaged in preparations for COP21, the largest global climate change conference in the world. 

Tragically, a series of terrorist attacks ripped through Paris the night of the November 13th, 2015, the third week of her immersion. In light of this terrible event, Maj Kim assisted with the arrival of Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he and the French government worked on a plan to overcome these attacks. She stated, “Being on the ground in France for a LITE put you at the right place and the right time to get an once-in-a-lifetime experience.” All her language training and skills were put to the test during these tense weeks in Paris.

Thanks to her tireless efforts to sustain and enhance her French language skills through the training provided by LEAP, Maj Kim was recently hand-selected to fill a staff billet at DIMO in San Antonio, TX—a post for which she is uniquely qualified. In her current position she applies all her refined skill sets as a Medical Service Corps officer into her role as the DIMO Administrator. 

With her unique international development background, along with her Medical Readiness experience and specialty match, she is able to apply her language and cultural skills to her daily responsibilities in taking care of her staff members and teams as they plan, deliver, and execute mobile training courses to our partner nations, helping to expand their healthcare systems and infrastructure, increase interoperability and promote theater security cooperation in the AFRICOM, CENTCOM, EUCOM, PACOM and SOUTHCOM AORs.

She contributes her success within the IHS community to the invaluable experiences she has received through LEAP.

“Because of LEAP, I am a multi-faceted, multilingual officer in the US Air Force. It has provided opportunities for me to excel and speak the same language as pilots, logisticians, intelligence analysts, linguists, and other specialties across the Services and Agencies in a joint environment,” Kim said.