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LEAP Spotlight: Colonel Ceir Coral

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  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

“As a child of immigrant parents from Brazil, I came to the U.S. as a 2-year-old child and learned to speak Portuguese as my primary language. I learned to speak English through the school system but spoke Portuguese at home and with family. While in high school, I learned Spanish from playing soccer with my Hispanic teammates and studied French for a couple of years. In 1987, while stationed at Loring AFB in Maine, I learned about Foreign Language Proficiency Pay as an opportunity to demonstrate my language abilities while earning extra pay to supplement my Airmen Basic salary. I maintained my language skills through family communications and, interestingly enough, sponsoring a high school exchange student from Brazil. At that time, I would recertify my language proficiency every year through the Defense Language Proficiency Test to maintain language proficiency pay.

“I enlisted in the Air Force in September 1986 as a Bomb Navigation System Specialist on B-52 bombers. I completed my Associate of Applied Science Degree through the Community College of the Air Force in Avionics Systems Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology through evening and weekend classes at the University of Southern Maine during my assignment at Loring AFB.

“I was recruited into Human Intelligence due to my identified language skills through the DLPT scores. Following intelligence specialist training, I was assigned to the 67 Intelligence Group, Andrews AFB, Maryland, as a HUMINT specialist. I completed my Master of Public Administration degree through Troy State University during that tour and was subsequently selected for a commission through Officer Training School.

“I commissioned in June 1995 as an Intelligence Officer. After a stint as an intelligence school instructor and a Signals Intelligence Officer tour in Alaska, I cross-trained into Acquisition Management in 2001. Since then, I have performed duties as a Foreign Materiel Exploitation program manager; Global Hawk Production program manager; Air Force Institute of Technology Master of Logistics Management graduate; Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics of the United States Program Element Monitor for the KC-X Program; KC-46 Chief of Production; F-35 Air Vehicle Director; and F-35 Modification & Retrofit program manager. I have also served as a National Defense Fellow at the Congressional Research Service, and Commander of Defense Contract Management Agency Boeing-Huntington Beach, DCMA Carson and now DCMA Fort Worth.

“I learned about LEAP through an Air Force program announcement at its inception (in 2009-2010). Of course, it piqued my interest, as I always sought to utilize my language skills in the USAF. I applied for the program and was selected for Portuguese-Brazilian. Due to my proficiency level, the LEAP office asked if I was interested in cross-training into another language, and I subsequently chose Italian. What interested me most about LEAP was the opportunity to ‘formally’ maintain language skills through language courses, Language Intensive Training Events, and other LEAP resources.

“As a LEAP Scholar, I’ve had the opportunity to maintain my language proficiency in Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and learn Italian in the process. I was fortunate to attend a LITE in Florence, Italy, to formally study Italian at the Scuola Leonardo da Vinci in Firenze in 2013. During my LITE, I immersed myself in the Italian language, culture and lifestyle. Two other LEAP Scholars and I attended school during the weekdays, stayed with local host families, and traveled throughout Northern Italy on the weekends. It was an experience I will never forget.

“I also had a tremendous opportunity to attend a LITE in Santiago, Chile, in support of the U.S. Security Cooperation Office’s efforts to support the UNITAS 2015 Multinational Naval Exercises hosted by the Chilean Navy and attended by Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, New Zealand and Panama. I was the Senior USAF officer supporting operations at Pudahuel Air Base in Santiago, Chile. I had the pleasure and honor to support all USAF and Naval Aviation operations based on the airbase. I would coordinate the operations, maintenance and logistics support requirements, and personnel movements for our non-Spanish speaking U.S. forces. I also coordinated all the Distinguished Visitor movements from the base to the USS George Washington aircraft carrier operating off the coast of Chile. In addition to the LITEs, I completed various eMentor courses in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.

“I am currently the Defense Contract Management Agency Lockheed Martin Fort Worth Contract Management Office Commander. I do not have a formal opportunity to utilize my LEAP training in my current mission. However, being stationed in Texas, I have plenty of opportunities to practice my Spanish skills within the local communities. In addition, I continue to seek opportunities through various LEAP resources to maintain my language skills in all three foreign languages.

“I’ve truly enjoyed my time as a LEAP Scholar. I’ve been maintaining my FLP since 1987 and have maintained an active status in LEAP since its inception. Earning FLPP was certainly a motivator, but more importantly, it was skill maintenance for future service needs. I am excited to see the continual growth in language and culture awareness.

“As I go into my 36th year of service in the USAF, I can reflect on my opportunities to utilize my language skills and am fortunate to be a part of the tremendous, force-enabling LEAP. I’ve been able to witness the growth and emphasis the USAF has placed on enhancing and utilizing foreign language and cultural skillsets to further mission execution and expand critical foreign relations and mission support to our worldwide allies. As I close on my USAF journey in the next year, I’m proud to have been a part of this growth and revel in the continued emphasis placed on these critical skillsets within our USAF and, hopefully, the USSF.”

-Portuguese Brazilian LEAP Scholar and FAO Colonel Ceir Coral

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