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LEAP Scholars Facilitate Virtual Security Cooperation Engagement Initiative

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  • By Capt Krista Bible, Operations Officer, AFCLC Language Division

This past summer and fall, the Air Force’s Southern Surgeon General’s Office conducted three medical VSCEs (Virtual Security Cooperation Engagements) in support of building partnerships across the Western Hemisphere. Developed by AFSOUTH/SG staff, the VSCEs were designed to supplement capacity-building exchanges to improve medical capabilities, tactics, techniques, and procedures, particularly during COVID-19. This year, the engagements were conducted entirely virtual due to the global pandemic.

Senior Master Sgt. Diego Yoshisaki, a Spanish Language Enabled Airman Program scholar from AFSOUTH, contacted the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Training Partnership Request program seeking Spanish language support to ensure a successful mission. AFCLC recruited 18 Spanish LEAP scholars to provide language support for the VSCEs and equipped multiple LEAP scholars on the AFSOUTH/SG staff.

“The AFCLC has been instrumental in building partnerships across the globe, and for AFSOUTH, this was especially critical, considering current pandemic challenges,” Yoshisaki said. “Sourcing LEAP scholars during these VSCEs provided foundational language support, not only enabling opportunities for our LEAP scholars but also our team. During this virtual initiative, there was substantial planning and coordination with country teams, security cooperation stakeholders, communications, etc. Having LEAP scholars provide their language expertise for the pre-planning, execution, and post-assessment was instrumental. Our team is truly appreciative of this tremendous source of expertise. I highly recommend security cooperation enablers connect with the AFCLC.”

The events started with an aeromedical evacuation seminar with Chilean Air Force medical officers, which provided critical discussions on Armed Forces, medical triage and Disaster Emergency Management Operations. The seminar also included briefings about TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) for interoperability between the Chilean Air Force and the U.S. Air Force. Two LEAP scholars, 2nd Lt. Edill Colon and Capt. Daniel Sierra, translated documents before the event and took discussion notes in English and Spanish to support strategic reporting tools.  

The team also conducted an event focused on infectious disease operations, partnering U.S. medical professionals with Peruvian military and civilian delegates. This seminar allowed the U.S. Air Force and Peruvian professionals to discuss ideas, challenges and lessons learned regarding COVID-19. LEAP scholars Master Sgt. Jose Aviles Velez and Capt. Alexander Rojas provided interpretation during the event live on ZoomGov and translated documents before the event.

“To utilize my native language skills to make a difference for two countries, it’s definitely the highlight of my career,” exclaimed Aviles Velez. Additionally, LEAP scholar Tech Sgt. Elias Ochoa, a 4A0X1 (Health Services Management), was selected as one of the subject matter experts who conducted his briefings in Spanish and English.

Leading up to this event, LEAP scholar Capt. Angelo Centeno led a document translation team to translate a 29-page Peruvian report from Spanish to English about COVID-19 action plans. In addition to Capt. Centeno, the translation team, consisted of LEAP scholars Tech Sgt. Guillermo Araujo, Tech Sgt. Javier Buenrostro, Tech Sgt. Mark Fain, Tech Sgt. Dabnell Morales Sanchez, 1st Lt. Fabian Pacheco Ferreira, Master Sgt. Jimmy Pareja, 1st Lt. Rachel Quinn, 1st Lt. Richard Rodriguez Marquez, and Tech Sgt. Bernie Torres.

“This was an exceptional experience that allowed me to use my language skills to have an impact on our Air Force,” Quinn said. “As a contracting officer, there are not many jobs in which I can use my native language, so participating in these two events allowed me to understand other Air Force specialty codes better and see the impact a diverse Air Force brings to the table.”

The final VSCE was between Ecuadorian military and civilian professionals regarding humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. Spanish LEAP scholar Tech Sgt. Osniel Diaz, who is also on the AFSOUTH/SG staff, coordinated the seminar. Topics of discussion included patient movement, emergency management, command and control, disease containment and public health emergency. LEAP scholars Capt. Maria Oliver, Senior Master Sgt. Everett Adams and Lt. Rachel Quinn interpreted during the engagement and translated documents before the event.

“I am thankful for this opportunity to utilize my language skills to benefit the U.S. Air Force and the Ecuadorian military,” Oliver said. “The best part was translating information pertaining to my career field as a flight nurse. This experience challenged me to explore and expand my vocabulary to successfully translate information regarding medical terminology and equipment.”

This unprecedented time of a global pandemic provided a highly valuable experience for the LEAP scholars, partner nations and AFSOUTH personnel. Not only did LEAP scholars develop, enhance and sustain their language capabilities throughout the VCSEs, but they also facilitated real-world missions with partner nations and the U.S. Air Force.

“Using the special skillset LEAP scholars provide has been a huge success,” said Maj. Adam Hebdon, deputy command surgeon general, AFSOUTH, and Spanish LEAP scholar. “Without them, we couldn’t have pulled off these successful engagements. AFCLC’s talented LEAP scholars translated slides and provided excellent interpretation services and language support throughout the events. Early partnering with AFCLC leadership was key to this mission’s success.”

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