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Language enabled Airmen bridge cultures at OCEAN SKY 19

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt Matthew Plew
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 493rd Fighter Squadron "Grim Reapers" arrived at Gando Air Base Oct. 18, 2019 to support the Spanish-led air-to-air combat training exercise, OCEAN SKY 19. The goal of the training is to enhance combat readiness and improve interoperability among allied air forces.

A multinational training event of this size is certain to have its logistical challenges, chief among them, language. Fortunately, language enabled Airmen here are helping to break the language barrier to ensure mission success.

"It is a privilege to be here, working with our Spanish allies," said MSgt. Xavier Marmolejos. "As a LEAP Scholar, I feel fortunate that my linguistic skills can help enhance this training experience for both of our nations."

The Language Enabled Airman Program, or LEAP, is a career-spanning, volunteer program open to officers and enlisted across all general purpose force (GPF) Air Force specialties to sustain and enhance the existing foreign language skills of Airmen. LEAP was founded on a core belief that language is a capability the Air Force cannot simply “contract out,” it must be invested, over the course of careers, in willing and able, uniformed Airmen who can operate seamlessly with air forces and populations around the world.

"Being able to communicate effectively with our partners and allies is a valuable skill," said Marmolejos. "I'm always mentoring my multilingual Airmen about the benefits of LEAP, and how it contributes to the mission."

Over the course of two weeks, the Grim Reapers will engage in a myriad of challenging scenarios alongside Spanish, Turkish, and NATO air forces designed to enhance their collective partnership, and improve aerial tactics, techniques and procedures. The assistance of LEAP Airmen, they will be able to do so with a greater rate of success.

"Our hosts here at Gando have been incredibly gracious," said Capt Cody Herl, 493rd Fighter Squadron pilot. "A major component to that, is our ability to leverage the multilingual capabilities of our Airmen here, to ensure that our nations are synchronized on the same training page together."

Exercises like OCEAN SKY remain a symbol of the shared commitment between Spain, the U.S. and NATO to maintaining the continued security of Europe.

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