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LEAP Spotlight with Capt. Abdulaziz Ali

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  • By AFCLC

“Fostering America’s talents. This is America’s strength; they draw talents from all parts of the population. I’ve heard some variation of this sentiment from several high-ranking officers during exercise SILENT WARRIOR 20 in Garmisch, Germany. Hosted by SOCAFRICA, the Joint-Combined Exercise brought together African Partner Nations and a host of panelists for a weeklong forum to discuss some of the lessons learned, successes, and challenges countering Violent Extremist Organizations on the African continent. APNs could articulate both the logistical challenges, from basic training and equipping, to the complex social, economic, and political factors that contribute to the growth of VEOs. It was a tremendous vignette that demonstrated how we need to collaborate closely with our partners in developing objectives and long-term solutions to shared security threats.

“I was fortunate to be part of a team of Language Enabled Airman Program scholars supporting the exercise through the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Training Partnership Request program. Besides having an opportunity to learn about the counterterrorism efforts in Africa, we played a crucial role in facilitating the breakout sessions, participating in key leadership engagements with the SOCOM commander, and even facilitating social gatherings after hours. I had an opportunity to serve as an interpreter, which I had never done before and did not realize how challenging and nerve-wracking it would be.

“The conference had about 100 attendees, but everyone knew who the Air Force LEAP scholars were by the end. Our added value was evident and vital to the event. It’s not just about the language skills alone, but also the cultural intelligence and acuity that LEAP scholars bring to the fight and minimize the likelihood of anything getting lost in translation or the time it would take to make sure everybody was on the same page. We were vital to the seamless execution of the event. Additionally, our partners were continually impressed by the diversity of who we were as American Airmen and the strength and legitimacy it gave to our Air Force.

“LEAP is one of the best examples of the Air Force focusing its efforts on honing, maintaining, and utilizing talent within its core of professionals. I’ve had tremendous opportunities, such as the one I described above, and travel to Oman, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates as part of my Language Intensive Training Events. My training and language proficiency also helped me excel as a Foreign Area Officer conducting the duties of managing the Foreign Military Sales Portfolio of the Royal Jordanian Air Force during my time at the Military Assistance Program at our embassy in Amman, Jordan.

“As a first-generation American, I grew up speaking Arabic at home, but any person who grew up speaking a language colloquially knows that speaking at home does not prepare you to engage at a high level with foreign partners. My Arabic proficiency before LEAP did not possess the vocabulary to match my vocation. The training I received through LEAP has equipped me with the confidence and skills to engage at higher levels than I had thought possible, and I hope to continue to grow and put those skills. My next milestone is to pursue Intermediate Developmental Education in a foreign language, and I do not doubt that if I am successful, it will be in large part due to my exposure and training through LEAP.”

--Arabic LEAP Scholar and FAO Capt. Abdulaziz Ali

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