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LEAP Spotlight: Capt. Michelle Cazares

“I have been in LEAP since 2014, and it has completely saved my language skills! Not only has LEAP helped me recover some of my Spanish vocabulary, but also it has significantly increased my ability to speak, read and write the language,” said LEAP scholar Capt. Michelle Cazares. (Photo courtesy of Capt. Michelle Cazares)

“I have been in LEAP since 2014, and it has completely saved my language skills! Not only has LEAP helped me recover some of my Spanish vocabulary, but also it has significantly increased my ability to speak, read and write the language,” said LEAP scholar Capt. Michelle Cazares. (Photo courtesy of Capt. Michelle Cazares)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

“My parents are from Mexico, but I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up, my father was very strict about my siblings and me speaking Spanish at home. He felt it was important for us to speak our native language and be educated about our culture. Once I joined the Air Force, I stopped speaking Spanish as often, and over the years, I noticed I started to forget certain words due to the lack of practice. It was apparent how bad my Spanish was getting when my Defense Language Proficiency Test score dropped from a 2 to a 1+. I knew I had to do something to maintain my language proficiency before it got worse. A few years later, I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program.

“I have been in LEAP since 2014, and it has completely saved my language skills! Not only has LEAP helped me recover some of my Spanish vocabulary, but also it has significantly increased my ability to speak, read and write the language. I am now finally scoring 3s on my DLPT in both reading and listening!

“LEAP has provided me the opportunity to attend four focused online language courses through eMentor and two Language Intensive Training Events in Peru and Colombia. For one of my LITEs, one other USAF officer and I were selected to attend International Squadron Officer School in Bogota, Colombia. It was an amazing and unique opportunity to attend class with a great group of officers from multiple Colombian military branches and interact with instructors from other countries. I was always entertained by the passionate leadership discussions we had in class, and I learned a lot about the Colombian military and culture.

“I am glad the Air Force has recognized the importance of capitalizing on the foreign language skills of our Airmen. The international insight and foreign language proficiency I gained from LEAP combined with my existing operational skills gave me the confidence to volunteer as an interpreter/translator and liaison for the Spanish military when I was stationed at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. I was able to assist in mission-related tasks as well as provide support in coordinating events. I learned that language and culture expertise are essential and critical competencies when working with our allied and coalition partners. I am very grateful to LEAP for all the opportunities it has provided me to work on maximizing our ability to build partnerships to accomplish the Air Force mission.”

--Spanish LEAP Scholar Capt. Michelle Cazares