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LEAP Spotlight: Staff Sgt. Felix Gomes

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  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

The Language Enabled Airman Program has been a wonderful experience since the start. I was assigned to amazing eMentor instructors for both my 48-hour traditional course and recently the 16-hour advanced course. I learned a lot from both and honed my language skills, which made me more confident.

My Language Intensive Training Event in 2018 was another great experience where I got to delve more into the culture that is part of me, and I learned so much during that time. I also have had the opportunity to present wing-level briefings on LEAP to potential Language Enabled Airman at my last base, which got me out of my comfort zone and helped me with my public speaking. Being part of LEAP helped me broaden my cultural knowledge and be more proficient with my skills that LEAP has helped me develop.

Through LEAP, I network more than just within my primary job. In my primary job, I don’t always get to use my language to make a difference, until recently for Aero India. I am a Unit Deployment Manager, and when I heard about the Aero India Tasking in November 2020, I was excited and wanted to be part of it. Unfortunately, my duty title and AFSC were not required for the mission, and I was notified I was not going. As I was getting my tasked members ready for this temporary duty travel, my supervisor, the 28th LRS Operations Officer, asked for the list of languages that I spoke, and both he and my commander were on board with me assisting Aero India not for my primary duty and job – but as an interpreter/translator. The Project Officers for Aero India accepted my squadron leadership’s proposal of sending me as language support.

The Aero India show was in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, and we operated out of Kempegowda International Airport for the Air Show at Yelahanka Air Force Base. I was tasked to be the intermediary between the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and the local community in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, when the need arose. I interpreted between the local ground crew, customs, security, staff members, and our Airmen for any needs that helped ensure mission success—for example, acquiring power tools from the local market. It was rewarding for me to be able to assist in a way I was prepared for, and I enjoyed building ties between nations and supporting a U.S. bomber presence in India for the first time in more than 75 years. I believe the Aero India event was a success in building and strengthening US-India relations. It was comforting for our Indian counterparts when they saw me wearing the USAF uniform and speaking Hindi. It helped eliminate any cultural and/or communication barriers, and things moved a lot smoother.

– Hindi LEAP Scholar Staff Sgt. Felix Gomes

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