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LEAP Scholars Contribute to Safeguarding Gabon’s National Parks

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  • By Capt Krista Bible, AFCLC

     In 2002, the government of Gabon made history by creating 13 national parks, protecting over 10% of the country’s landmass.  In turn, Gabon’s National Agency for National Parks (ANPN) was created in order to manage the national parks, protecting the wildlife and environment, and increasing appreciation for the parks through conservation tourism. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has teamed with Gabon to support the ANPN by helping them improve national park  management and security, focusing on issues including  elephant poaching, the commercial bushmeat trade, extractive industries, and commercial and artisanal fishing.



     As part of a Department of State program facilitated by the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) at the U.S. Embassy in Gabon, the USARMY’s 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion has provided on-site training and guidance to EcoGuards (the Gabonese equivalent of Park Rangers) through one-week courses taught over six months. These courses enhanced foundational tactical skills in order to build partner capacity to conduct counter poaching and wildlife trafficking operations.

     With the training materials in English, the OSC was in need of assistance to translate their documents and reached out to the Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC) through the Training Partnership Request (TPR) program. The TPR program facilitates the utilization of Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) scholars by connecting advanced LEAP scholars with unique training opportunities to provide language support in a real-world context. At a moment’s notice, 24 advanced French LEAP scholars from across the globe teamed together virtually to answer the call to translate a 70-page Survival training manual and a 166-page Patrol Tactics training manual from English into French.

     1st Lt Alondra Rojas led an 8-scholar document translation team for the Survival manual: 1st Lt Victoria Smith, Capt Garrett Ellis, Capt Reuben Luomaoverstreet, TSgt Jeffrey Koellner, Capt Liana Gaudreault, 1st Lt Ciarra McCarthy, and Capt Steven Kotecki. Smith praised, “This was a uniquely challenging opportunity not only from a language perspective, but also a field of expertise one. I don't know much about survival (in any language!), so in order to be really effective with my translation, I had to do some research (in French) to make sure what I was writing made sense. That made the experience that much more rewarding, though. I sincerely hope this will enhance training for park rangers in Gabon. This is an incredibly interesting and rewarding initiative, and I feel honored to be a part of it!”

     Capt Marie Gaudreault led a 16-scholar document translation team to tackle the lengthy Patrol Tactics training manual: Capt Scott Gregory, Capt Cody Anderson, MSgt Komi Deh, 1st Lt Casey Evans, Maj Daniel Barker, Capt Claude Betene A Dooko, MSgt Kossivi Akou, 1st Lt Sophie Rucki, TSgt Nemesio Perez III, 1st Lt Jose Colon Franco, Capt Marvis Randy Joseph, TSgt DieuDonne Batawila, Maj Thomas Bowen, MSgt Aziz Tetou, and Capt Abraham Mambo. Joseph proclaimed, “Collaborating with a diverse group of Officers and NCOs to translate the Gabonese Patrol Tactics Manual was a sublime experience that really helped showcase the versatility of our American Airmen. Coming together to help our partner Nation in a time where resources are slim and most have limited mobility is a reaffirmation of our Air Force's commitment through the AFCLC, to further partnerships and support our allies in all domains of operations. This opportunity enabled me to refine my skills as a global leader and add a layer in the path towards becoming an effective Foreign Area Officer.”

     After receiving the completed translations, CPT Emelia Fujita from the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion thanked both LEAP teams for their diligence and emphasized that “incorporating written doctrine into training the Gabonese Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN) will go a long way in building a sustainable training model.”

     In addition to utilizing their French to counter illicit poaching and trafficking, this was also a great training opportunity for LEAP scholars to enhance, sustain, and refine their reading and writing modalities. Evans exclaimed, “This was a really neat project, and I learned a lot by working on it. Working at my own pace was important for me during UPT, and helped me keep up with French AND (hopefully) help make a difference in the fight against ‘les braconniers’! It also helped me reconnect with some of my [French-speaking] friends when I asked about how to rephrase some of the sections that were very [Anglophone] in wording/tone... I’d love to do something like this again.”

     By operating seamlessly with other organizations around the world, these 24 LEAP scholars contributed to the National Defense Strategy pillars of interoperability and demonstrated the power of building and strengthening partnerships where everyone wins. Increasing the effectiveness of park security against malign influences in turn safeguards the wildlife and the environment, as well as bolsters the economy and conservation tourism for Gabon. LEAP scholars also benefited from the opportunity to hone their language skills by working on these documents. Dr. Richard Parnell, a training consultant for the Wildlife Conservation Society  in Gabon showed his appreciation for the scholars’ hard work, “It is hard to overestimate the difference this work will make in making ranger training for Gabon's National Parks sustainable, and significantly improving the standard and security of our anti-poaching patrols.” These scholars stepped up to the plate and showed that language is a capability that cannot simply be contracted out, it must be invested in over the course of careers in willing and able uniformed Airmen and Space professionals.

For more information on the Language Enabled Airman Program, see our website:

To submit a Training Partnership Request:


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