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LEAP Duo: The Assignment of a Lifetime

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  • By AFCLC's Outreach Team, Jasmine Bourgeois

LEAP Duo: The Assignment of a Lifetime

Long before they were captains in the Air Force, Wayne Mowery and Shaharazad Purvis were in high school when they met and fell in love.

“We’ve been together for about 14 years now,” Mowery said. “It’s odd to think it’s been that long, but it has. I met my wife, Shaharazad, in high school through the Civil Air Patrol, an Air Force cadet program for youth. From there, we went to the same university and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) detachment, and the rest is history.”

Even at a young age, the pair shared a love for the Air Force and languages. As they grew from a teenage couple to young adults, they continued to look for opportunities to marry their two passions. So, when they heard about the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s (AFCLC) Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP), they knew it was a perfect fit.

LEAP develops and sustains Airmen via a two-part system of recurring online eMentor training and periodic immersions known as Language Intensive Training Events (LITEs). Applicants selected for LEAP must meet existing language proficiency, potential to achieve higher levels of language proficiency, and Air Force language requirements. Mowery studied Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Arabic and traveled to the Middle East in college, and Purvis grew up speaking Farsi because her mother was a refugee from Iran. “When I heard about LEAP during ROTC, we were both very interested, applied as cadets, and got in,” Mowery said.

When they commissioned, the duo began to face some of the same issues other mil-to-mil couples experience: Permanent Change of Duty Station (PCS), training, and deployments.

Each move was a little harder on them and their language skills.

Mowery and Purvis both commissioned with language degrees with an emphasis on language and culture. Mowery studied Arabic Studies, North Africa, and the Middle East and its history, politics, and religion, and Purvis studied the history of Iran.

“In my mind, I thought the Air Force would want to use these skills and combine them with my pilot training, and everything would be perfect. But that didn’t happen right away,” Mowery said. Instead, their careers took off. Purvis attended technical school and completed her first assignment while Mowery’s career started with two years of pilot training: Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals, and a yearlong F-16 B Course.

Both Purvis and Mowery used eMentor courses in LEAP to maintain their language skills.

“My participation in LEAP has helped me maintain my proficiency in Persian while working mostly in USINDOPACOM assignments,” Purvis said.

“For the first five years or so, there were no opportunities to use my language skills, and the only thing that kept these skills alive was LEAP. I was able to take eMentor courses in the evening and on weekends to help maintain my language abilities,” Mowery said.

Until now, after years in the Air Force and LEAP, Mowery and Purvis are going on what they describe as the “assignment of a lifetime” in Amman, Jordan. Mowery will be working as an exchange pilot with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, and Purvis will be working at the embassy.

“My participation in LEAP helped me maintain my proficiency and allowed me to easily transition to an assignment working in CENTCOM at an overseas U.S. embassy. This is a dream assignment for both us, so without a doubt having LEAP on our resume helped us score a huge win,” Purvis said.

“This assignment for the exchange pilot is normally difficult to fill for the Air Force because [of] … the requirements,” Mowery stated. “Traditionally, the Air Force has had to send pilots to [the Defense Language Institute] (DLI) before going to Amman to help them understand the language and history. Thanks to LEAP, I was immediately ready to fill the assignment without the need to take a 55-week break from flying to attend DLI. Through eMentor courses and overseas LITES, LEAP ensured that I was ready.”

For Mowery, not only is he prepared for this new assignment thanks to LEAP, but he also said he was personally recommended for the job thanks to networking within the LEAP community.

“I got wind of this assignment during a LITE to Muscat, Oman,” he said. “One of the students I was studying with was a maintenance officer who was a part of the Military Personnel Exchange Program [and he] mentioned they were looking for a pilot. Thanks to him and another LEAP scholar, who I took an eMentor course with, I was personally recommended for this assignment.”

Purvis and Mowery are currently preparing to move and look forward to growing as a couple and taking in all that Amman has to offer both culturally and linguistically.

“You always want the marriage of your language training and your tactical training, and this is that assignment,” Mowery said. “I’ll be able to travel with my wife, who will also be able to use her skills and grow as well. This is truly an amazing opportunity, and I can’t thank LEAP and AFCLC enough for making it possible.”

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