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LEAP Scholars Support Annual Central American Air Chiefs Conference

  • Published
  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

A team of 10 LEAP Scholars supported the annual Air Chiefs Conference hosted by the 12th Air Force, also known as AFSOUTH, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, through the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Training Partnership Request. The team included 2nd Lt. Armando Colorado; Master Sgt. Alan Ebanks; Tech. Sgt. Ernesto Cruz Barquero; Maj. Ana De Figueroa; Capt. Noelle Noudewo; Capt. Carlos Rosado Garcia; Senior Master Sgt. Everett Adams; Master Sgt. Joselyn Leon Berdecia; Tech. Sgt. Abraham Rojas; and 1st Lt. David Bernal Delagua.

This annual conference aims to conduct an event with AFSOUTH leadership and the Air Chiefs and Senior Enlisted Leaders from Central America and the Caribbean. The theme of this year’s conference was "Collaboration in a Post-Pandemic Environment," with emphasis on Humanitarian Assistance Cooperation, Maritime Patrol Aircraft, Joint Operations and Transnational Threats.

“This TPR was unique because we had a one-week virtual pre-course before the TPR itself where the LEAP Scholars focused on current events and translation techniques. This is the only TPR that has had that component,” Capt. Krista Bible, Operations Officer for AFCLC’s Language Division, said.

During this event, LEAP Scholars provided language support by translating biographies for the air chiefs, translating PowerPoint slides from English to Spanish, facilitating conversations between non-Spanish speaking U.S. government personnel and partner nation delegates, articulating the conference schedule to the air chiefs, interpreting for the delegation during the conference and social events, and escorting air chiefs and Senior Enlisted Leaders.

AFSOUTH expressed pleasure and gratefulness for the professionalism and the cultural and linguistic knowledge displayed by LEAP Scholars. Their mission of conducting security cooperation and providing air, space, and cyberspace capabilities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean was championed throughout the event in the form of strategic discussions between nations, facilitated by LEAP Scholars.

The team of LEAP Scholars also shared their experiences on the opportunity to support this major annual event alongside the 12th Air Force.

Capt. Noelle Noudewo regarded the event as an incredibly rewarding experience.

“LEAP Scholars facilitated a respectfully personalized experience for our partner nations. While some delegates were bilingual, very few possessed sufficient skill level to discuss the complex themes of the conference. This Language Intensive Training Event furthered not only 12th AF’s mission but also that of general U.S. foreign policy, contributing to the strengthening of partnerships and identifying further opportunities for U.S. engagement with our partners,” Noudewo said.

For 2nd Lt. Armando Colorado, this opportunity broadened his strategic perspective as a military officer and reinforced his perceived value of LEAP.

“Overall, my experience was extremely valuable to me as a military officer, a logistician, and a Spanish speaker. The regional conference gave me a strategic perspective and helped me understand that every job in our Air Force is important and adds value to the overall mission. It also reinforced the importance of LEAP in selecting qualified speakers of foreign languages within the USAF and the value that their capabilities can offer,” Colorado explained.

As a member of the U.S. Space Force, Maj. Ana C. de Figueroa valued the opportunity to discuss how partner nations are embracing space exploration and how they are seeking USSF expertise.

“I had the privilege to be an interpreter for all nine delegations (Belize, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Guayana, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Honduras), as well as the spouses of U.S. personnel when interacting with the spouses of the visiting nations,” she said. “The insight it gave me is that the visiting nations and the U.S. Air Force share many areas in respect to their missions. Also, some visiting nations are exploring the inclusion of females to their branch of the armed forces and are looking at the USAF for guidance.”

Master Sgt. Alan Banks appreciated the opportunity to interact with air chiefs and Senior Enlisted Leaders of partner nations to discuss top priorities and strengthen relationships.

“Having strong, capable and willing partners within the region is truly a force multiplier that extends the reach of influence and combined capabilities of all partner nations; this is a great benefit to the U.S. and all countries involved. During this LITE, I had the opportunity to interact with the highest-ranking Commander of the Dominican Republic’s Air Force, equivalent to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and his Senior Enlisted Leader. This close interaction brought awareness into some of their top priorities,” Banks said.

During the last night of the event, the entire LEAP team was coined by Maj. Gen. Barry Cornish, 12th AF Commander, for their key contributions as interpreters.

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