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Italian LEAP scholars Contribute to Contingency Operations

Italian LEAP scholars Contribute to Contingency Operations

Top row: Capt Stefanie DePreist (left), Capt Stefanie DePriest and Capt Scott Divett (middle), and Capt Scott Divett (right). Bottom row: Maj Derreck Monnier (left), Capt Grazia Castagna (middle), and Capt Marco Catanese (right). Photos were contributed.

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

Last month, Italian Language Enabled Airman (LEAP) scholar Maj Derreck Monnier led a five-scholar document translation team in support of the USCENTOM Vendor Vetting Branch. LEAP scholars Capt Grazia Castagna, Capt Marco Catanese, Capt Scott Divett, and Capt Stefanie DePriest worked with Maj Monnier to translate a 13-page document from Italian into English.

Monnier marveled at the impact their LEAP team had and said: “It’s amazing to be able to gather a group as diverse as we are, scattered around the world, including while deployed, to use our language skills as a team. There aren’t many [Italian LEAP scholars], but we were able to come together on short notice and produce something that directly helps our joint partners downrange. It’s one thing to be able to order a glass of wine in Milan. It’s another, more gratifying thing to use our Italian to help other LEAP scholars learn and grow, all while benefitting those in harm’s way.”

This event was impactful and contributed to strengthening partnerships and interoperability. The USCENTCOM Vendor Vetting Branch’s mission is to establish and maintain a congressionally mandated vendor vetting process for any foreign company providing or seeking to provide contract services of a certain amount in the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR) where the U.S. military is engaged in contingency operations. Regardless of the services these foreign companies may provide, such as transportation, fueling, telecommunications, cleaning, and others, the Vendor Vetting Branch’s mission is to identify potential force protection risks to U.S. Forces and any possible counter-intelligence risks. The Vendor Vetting branch regularly reaches out to the Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC) through the Training Partnership Request (TPR) program to request LEAP language support with document translations in a variety of languages. Once a request is received, AFCLC recruits LEAP scholars for the requested language and matches them with the request.

Not only was this translation event an amazing example of LEAP’s impact on real-world events but also a testament to LEAP scholars’ dedication to language enhancement and sustainment. Translating documents provides advanced LEAP scholars a means to develop and enrich their language and culture skills.

“Translating a highly technical legal Italian document into English forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Even as a fluent/native speaker, I found myself delving into research to strengthen my vernacular in the complex world that is government contracts. Luckily, I was able to also lean on my prior career field as a Contract Specialist! This experience lent itself particularly well to this assignment – it gave me a framework from which to build upon and ultimately helped me connect all the dots. Being able to meet fellow Italian LEAP scholars was the highlight of this experience; we divided and conquered while also collaborating and learning from one another along the way. Would definitely recommend any eligible LEAP scholars raise their hand for projects like this. It was tremendous value-added, and we’re better off for it,” DePriest remarked.

Because LEAP scholars may not always be familiar with all the vocabulary in a document requested for translation, they often research and increase their vocabulary to complete the translation, augmenting their language skills on a variety of technical topics.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to use my language skills. Getting exposure to translating business and legal terms was helpful since I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the words or phrases,” Catanese exclaimed.

Additionally, LEAP scholars do not always have the opportunity to use their language skills in their primary career field, so TPRs, whether in-person or virtual, allow scholars the opportunity to use their language abilities for the benefit of the Air Force while simultaneously contributing to their professional development.

“I really appreciate being given such a unique experience to improve my language skills. There is not much opportunity in my career field (Nuclear Missile Operations) to practice or use Italian. I joined LEAP to improve my language skills and use it to benefit U.S. Forces, and this translation helped me do just that. My knowledge was tested, and I learned vocabulary I had never encountered before. I was also impressed by the team that worked together across the world to produce a timely and successful translation, which is a true testament to the quality and caliber of LEAP scholars. I am grateful to be part of such an amazing group!” Castagna proclaimed.

 Furthermore, this event demonstrated that no matter where LEAP scholars find themselves in the world, they always find a way to work on their language skills. Having completed a Language Intensive Training Event (LITE) together in Rome, Italy, in 2019, LEAP scholars DePriest and Divett were reunited when they coincidentally deployed to the same location. Even while deployed, these LEAP scholars meet up regularly for lunch to practice their Italian, and both worked on the Vendor Vetting document on their off time.

“It’s a small Air Force world, and it’s great to be able to connect with other members of LEAP and maintain those relationships wherever we are serving. I really enjoyed the chance to help translate this document. It was a great challenge and provided me with a chance to practice translating at a business and legal level of language that stretched me and helped me to learn. I appreciate that the LEAP [scholars] can be called on to help, and we can provide a built-in option for the Air Force and other services when they need help with foreign partners. The Language Enabled Airman Program is one of my favorite parts of serving in the Air Force. Thank you,” Divett enthused.