By AFCLC Outreach Team
/ Published March 17, 2021
Then First Lt. Fiona Akoth, 14th Student Squadron Student Pilot, holds a ceramic Kenyan decoration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)
“My story starts in a rural town in western Kenya, which is on the eastern side of Africa. I grew up in Kisumu City, right off the coast of Lake Victoria, and when I was 13, we moved to the United States. I went to middle and high school in Texas, and it was at that time that I learned about the United States Air Force.
Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be a pilot, and I always loved the idea of being able to fly. I was a junior in high school when I heard about the United States Air Force Academy, and it was eye-opening for me. I graduated high school, got into the Air Force Academy, and majored in aeronautical engineering and Arabic.
I grew up speaking Swahili and a local language Luo, and along with aviation, I always had a love for language learning. I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program my senior year at USAFA, and I was very interested.
I thought it would be an awesome experience since I was already fluent in Swahili, and I knew I wanted to keep that up. I was selected into LEAP, and right before I began my pilot training, I went to Kenya for my first Language Intensive Training Event. I participated in a six-week program in Kenya where I worked with International Health Specialist and other agencies to provide health care to those in Mount Kenya and Central Kenya. This was a great experience because not only did we serve as interpreters between the doctors and the local population, but we were also able to bridge the gap culturally. Many women patients didn’t feel comfortable speaking directly to male doctors, so our role was crucial in helping blend these two cultures. I learned so much about myself during that immersion and the country I was raised in.
Once my pilot training started, I started flying the T-6 and T-1 and got selected to fly the U-28, an Air Force Special Operations Command Aircraft. I was able to take eMentor online language courses to help maintain my skills. Through eMentor courses, I was able to improve my language skills grammatically. The courses and instructors are also extremely flexible, which is helpful for my career field. Over the last three years, I’ve deployed three times to Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, so it’s great to have instructors who are willing to meet you virtually on any given day or time.
From here, I look forward to cross-training and branching off to other languages in LEAP so that I can continue to become a multifaceted officer. I am always working to maintain my Swahili, Arabic and studying Polish.”
-LEAP Scholar Capt. Fiona Akoth-
551 E. Maxwell Blvd, Bldg 500, Maxwell AFB, AL 36112