By AFCLC Outreach Team
/ Published January 06, 2021
Photo Courtesy of Maj Adam Bergoo
“I was born in Sweden and grew up speaking the language at home. I started learning Spanish in middle school and continued to develop it as a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy, where I met my wife. She was an exchange cadet from Colombia, so that was one of the things that first drew us together.
Unlike some of my colleagues, I didn’t apply for the Language Enabled Airman Program until I was done with pilot training. Since that was a challenging period, I chose to wait to apply until I was at my first operational assignment.
Once I was accepted into LEAP, I quickly realized that the combination of the eMentor online language courses and immersions serve as a valuable means for developing and maintaining language and cultural competency.
Thanks to LEAP, I was able to continually develop my skills, but I’ve seen the most rapid growth during several Language Intensive Training Events. In 2014, as a young captain, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala in support of Interagency Task Force Tecun Uman. I was there with three other LEAP scholars and we were on the ground interpreting, instructing, and coordinating training. Prior to this LITE, I had never had any exposure to joint or interagency operations with international partners. In addition to the out-of-comfort-zone work experience, I learned tons of tactical and technical terms that expanded my vocabulary. I even became an expert on how to assemble and re-assemble the Israeli “galil” assault rifle, which was the standard service rifle for Guatemalan forces – all in Spanish. This was not the kind of experience I had expected when I headed off for my first LITE, but it was awesome.
Soon after, I started to work toward applying to the Olmsted Scholar Program. I heard about the program at the Academy and knew it was something I wanted to do. The opportunity to live overseas with my family, grow as a leader, and develop my cultural competency really appealed to me.
I have had a pretty standard career as a pilot in the Air Force. LEAP has not only helped me develop my language skills, but I think the experiences have made me more competitive for broadening opportunities like the Olmsted Scholar Program. Through LEAP, I’ve been able to serve as escort and interpreter to foreign general officers, lead teams of interpreters/translators, build a deeper understanding of joint and combined operations, and build on my language capabilities through eMentor. It’s these types of unique experiences combined with the cultural and regional knowledge that makes LEAP scholars so valuable to their commanders and the Air Force enterprise.”
-LEAP Scholar Maj Adam Bergoo
551 E. Maxwell Blvd, Bldg 500, Maxwell AFB, AL 36112