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Culture and Language…An Airman’s Perspective

Master Sgt. Erick Lizarraga, an 18th Civil Engineer Squadron structural maintenance craftsman, entertains local youth at South Tinh Phong Primary School, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, during an engineering project March 26, 2015. Efforts undertaken during Operation Pacific Angel 2015 help militaries across the Pacific improve and build relationships in a wide spectrum of civic operations, which bolster each nation's capacity to respond and support future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tong Duong)

Master Sgt. Erick Lizarraga, an 18th Civil Engineer Squadron structural maintenance craftsman, entertains local youth at South Tinh Phong Primary School, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, during an engineering project March 26, 2015. Efforts undertaken during Operation Pacific Angel 2015 help militaries across the Pacific improve and build relationships in a wide spectrum of civic operations, which bolster each nation's capacity to respond and support future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tong Duong)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

Airmen have a unique way of thinking about things and when you study our culture, it’s easy to explain.  We are the legacy of pioneers who dared to defy gravity.  Our heritage is to take to the heights and not only see but think about everything in new dimensions.  It’s only fitting then that Airmen should innately understand how culture and language can enhance the application of airpower, support building alliances, and achieve unparalleled interoperability with valued partners.

The domain of air shares many of the same attributes as culture and language, which bear fruit in the form of relationships.  The domain of air knows no boundaries; neither do relationships.  The domain of air is ubiquitous; so is the power of relationships.  The domain of air can in parallel produce strategic, operational, and tactical effects; so can relationships.  The domain of air provides unmatched opportunities for economy of force and asymmetric advantage; so do relationships.

In the recent release of the new National Defense Strategy, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis issued a call to arms that couldn’t be clearer for culture and language professionals as well as Airmen.  The call to enhance readiness must include skills in culture and language as readiness is directly linked to the strength of our partnerships.  He also told us we must be more interoperable, and as important as it is, it’s even more important that our respective forces are able to work together.

Now is the time to come to grips with the idea that the capabilities of technology can’t exceed the capabilities of people.  In a world that will be only more global, more connected, more coalition at the core, and more influenced by the development of technology, it is imperative that Airmen apply the global perspective that is in our DNA to deliberately develop global skills in order for people and platforms to perform at their maximum capability.

Deliberate learning models that can build culture and language skills that can’t be achieved through “just in time training” are a strategic investment that open opportunities to be our best and mitigate risk when circumstances do their worst.  Through this investment we can achieve a future that is as boundless as the domain of air.  Through our programs at the Air Force Culture and Language Center, we are building these relationships, strengthening partnerships worldwide, and improving the Air Force one day at a time.