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LEAP Spotlight: 1st Lt Rachel Olvera Quinn

Photo Courtesy of 1st Lt Rachel Olvera Quinn

Photo Courtesy of 1st Lt Rachel Olvera Quinn

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

1st Lt Rachel Quinn has been a Spanish Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) Scholar since 2018. While born in Raleigh, NC, she moved to Mexico City with her father when she was 3 years old and grew up speaking Spanish. Being passionate about cultures and languages, this was just the beginning of her journey. She then developed and grew her cross-cultural competency by traveling to multiple countries including Peru, Colombia, France, Belgium, England, Belize, Brazil, Netherlands, Guatemala, and Mexico. In addition to speaking Spanish, she also furthered her linguistic capabilities by learning Portuguese, Italian, and French. When Quinn was 17 years old, she decided to return to the United States to pursue her dreams of joining the military, starting with the U.S. Navy Seabees and then commissioning into the U.S. Air Force in 2018 as a Contracting Officer. When she returned to the U.S. in 2012, she had to learn English by attending a local church that taught English as a Foreign Language. As a Navy Seabee, she was assigned to Joint Base Charleston, SC, at the Air Cargo Unit and found a job as a dishwasher where her passions for cooking and leadership were developed.

While living in Charleston, she was accepted into The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, to finish her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. During her first year at The Citadel, Quinn had the opportunity to apply to the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program and eventually LEAP. Quinn worked in multiple kitchen positions for years before working her way up to sous chef at one of Charleston’s well-known restaurants, all while attending The Citadel during the evening and fulfilling her reservist drill weekends. After commissioning as a Contracting Officer (64P) in the U.S. Air Force in 2018, she was assigned to the 23rd Contracting Squadron at Moody AFB, where she currently serves as the Officer in Charge of Base Services.

Quinn’s language and cultural experience flourished in LEAP. She completed an Area Studies Immersion (ASI) in Bogota, Colombia. This experience allowed her to practice Spanish in a professional environment and understand the cultural differences between the United States and Colombia. During her LITE in Bogota, Quinn spent a month expanding her vocabulary and learning the historical events that have impacted Colombia at Universidad Sergio Arboleda. Learning from different professors from one of the most prestigious universities in Bogota allowed Quinn to relate their cultural and military vision to the U. S. Air Force as one of our powerful nearby allies. Colombia currently receives training from the USAF on multiple military disciplines, specifically training from the Colombia’s A-29 Supertucano pilots for counterdrug operations. During her LITE to Bogota, Quinn visited multiple historic sites as part of her immersion to include Cerro de Monserrate, Casa Museo Quinta de Bolivar, Museo del Oro, Museo Botero, Catedral de Sal, the National Congress, and La cocina de Myriam Camhi, where Quinn and her LITE peers learned to cook traditional dishes of Colombia.

After developing her linguistic skills during her LITE experience in Colombia, Quinn volunteered to interpret/translate for the New York City community during a surge of COVID-19. During recent months, Quinn translated documents in support of two Virtual Medical Security Cooperation Events during COVID-19 for the Peruvian and Ecuador military through LEAP’s Training Partnership Request (TPR) program. In support of the Peruvian military, Quinn worked with other LEAP scholars to translate a 28-page document from Spanish to English. During her Ecuador event, Quinn provided language support by performing on-the-spot interpretation/translation from English to Spanish for military leaders in the virtual environment. Quinn continues to encourage other native language speakers at Moody AFB to use their cultural experiences and language skills to make our Air Force a multicultural force.

Quinn’s professional goal is to someday become a Foreign Area Officer. She is PCSing to Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ, where she hopes her Spanish can be widely utilized across the Wing and where her fiancé is stationed as an A-10 pilot instructor actively learning Spanish from her.

--LEAP Scholar 1st Lt Rachel Quinn