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Public Affairs, the Peruvian Air Force, and Partnerships

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

“I remember growing up in Minnesota and watching my dad and my brother”.

It was within the walls of her family’s kitchen where 2nd Lieutenant Madeline Krpan’s desire to join the Air Force was awakened at a young age. Her father’s vivid tales of life in the Army combined with her brother’s experience in the Air Force served as inspiration for Krpan early on.

“I grew up in a military family,” Krpan said. “My dad was a helicopter pilot in the Army and my older brother is currently an F-15E pilot in the Air Force. I always heard their stories about their missions around the world and I was raised in such a way that I always knew the military was an option for me”.

An option for Krpan who, at the time, was still uncertain of her future and her career path. She said, in her spirit, she felt she was meant to be in the Air Force; but, she also had another fire burning inside of her. Krpan wanted to be a journalist and tell people’s stories….in both English and Spanish.

“I love telling stories and speaking Spanish. I’m not a native speaker but, I started studying Spanish in the 7th grade and it quickly became a passion of mine. I’ve been studying ever since,” she said.

Unsure of how her passions would fall in line with the Air Force’s mission, she reluctantly applied for an Air Force ROTC scholarship at the University of St. Thomas.

“I knew I was passionate about journalism and about Spanish, so I went ahead and applied,” she said. “I had been told that people really only receive technical scholarships for technical career fields or majors like engineering, meteorology, or math. So, I was delighted when I received an acceptance letter and was awarded the opportunity go to school and study Spanish. It was at that moment when I knew the Air Force was right for me, I knew from that moment on, I would study Spanish in college, commission, and become an officer in the Air Force”.

 

Once she commissioned, Kpran applied for the Language Enabled Airman Program and continued to seek opportunities to improve her language skills…including one that was very close to her base. While stationed in Tucson, Arizona, Krpan heard about the upcoming PANAMAX exercise at Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern). Several partner nations were joining forces for the annual exercise to discuss defending the Panama Canal and she wanted to be a part of it.

“I was working across the base in public affairs at the wing at the time,” Krpan said, “I let them know that I spoke Spanish and they identified an opportunity for me to use my skills as a short TDY. During PANAMAX, I worked with a Peruvian pilot where we discussed tactical and strategic communication and public affairs strategies in Spanish and I was called upon to do some interpreting during their daily conference calls. I learned a lot and overall, it was really eye-opening and challenging”.

Right after her experience with PANAMAX, she was accepted into LEAP. The program managed by the Air Force Culture and Language Center employs a two-part education and sustainment system consisting of eMentor online language classes and Language Intensive Training Events (LITEs). LEAP is a career-spanning program that helps Airmen sustain their language skills and shortly after she joined, Krpan traveled to Lima, Peru for her first language intensive immersion. Krpan describes the entire experience as a dream come true.

 

“I think what was most impacting about the opportunity to live and study in Lima for a month was that I could put in context what I had learned in school and the impressions I had from working with the Peruvian Air Force in the States. Getting to interact with the Peruvian people and begin to better understand their very recent, bitter history during the terrorism of communist group Sendero Luminoso was eye-opening,” Krpan said.

 

“It added a depth I couldn't have appreciated from my time operationally focused during PANAMAX or learned inside my many language classrooms. Walking in the footsteps of the Inca people at Machu Picchu and having some incredible young professors explain the heritage of colonization and the oppression of the indigenous people helped me to understand why even the Spanish language is shaped the way it is--and how it has shaped how the way the average Peruano thinks. The language and culture of Peru (Quechua and Spanish) are deeply intertwined, and there's a rare beauty there beyond the tourist traps.

 

I think truly becoming a global citizen means diving into the best parts a culture and a country has to offer, and also getting personal with the rougher parts, too. For me, that was Peru. That understanding is what will help us form the bridges we need to ultimately work together with foreign militaries and accomplish our mission, and my personal mission, of serving the greater good. LEAP is able to bridge that divide and it is really invaluable”.