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LEAP Spotlight: LEAP to Space Force with SMSgt. Adrian Gaxiola

As a Language Enabled Airman Program Scholar, Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Gaxiola had the opportunity to travel to Colombia to teach an eight-week Geospatial Intelligence course focused on Full-Motion Video operations. He trained 43 members from the Colombian Air Force, National Police, Army and Navy. (Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Gaxiola pictured center with Tech. Sgt. Matthew Roman and members of the Colombian military)

As a Language Enabled Airman Program Scholar, Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Gaxiola had the opportunity to travel to Colombia to teach an eight-week Geospatial Intelligence course focused on Full-Motion Video operations. He trained 43 members from the Colombian Air Force, National Police, Army and Navy. (Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Gaxiola pictured center with Tech. Sgt. Matthew Roman and members of the Colombian military)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

“I am a first-generation American with parents who emigrated from Mexico, and Spanish is my first language. I entered the Air Force in 2006 as an F-15 Crew Chief and retrained into the Geospatial Intelligence career field in 2010. I have a bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Studies and a graduate degree in Management, both from American Military University. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and have used my language skills to conduct military exchanges in Colombia and Mexico.

“I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program via the Air Force Portal back in 2013. At the time, the program was only open to officers. However, in 2014 when the program opened to enlisted members, I applied as soon as possible. I wanted to be in the program because I wanted to use my Spanish skills to help the Air Force achieve its strategic goals abroad. Additionally, I wanted to have the unique experience of operating outside of my Air Force Specialty Code to support national strategic objectives. Finally, I believed the insights from being a LEAP Scholar would make me a better noncommissioned officer.

“In 2015, I attended the International NCO Academy in Bogota, Colombia, taught in Spanish by the Inter-American Air Forces Academy cadre. The course ran concurrently with the International Squadron Officer School, which was also in Bogota and hosted by IAFAA. It was a great experience overall, and in 2016, I was asked by LEAP to return to augment the IAFAA staff to host a second INCOA and ISOS in Colombia. During that time, I helped IAFAA by serving as a protocol officer for INCOA and ISOS and worked very closely with the U.S. Military Group in Colombia. That is what opened the door to me assisting with the Colombian Geospatial program and ultimately led to me helping Mexico as well.

“LEAP opened doors for me to help the Mexican and Colombian militaries advance their geospatial programs, which helped improve interoperability with both nations. In 2017, I traveled to Colombia to teach an eight-week Geospatial Intelligence course focused on Full-Motion Video operations. I trained 43 members from the Colombian Air Force, National Police, Army and Navy. That same year, I traveled to Mexico City, Mexico, for a geospatial exchange with Mexican military leaders. During this exchange, we discussed their goals for the Mexican geospatial program and how Air Education and Training Command could help them improve their geospatial program.

“In 2019, after years of coordination, the first-ever Geospatial Targeting course was hosted on Goodfellow, AFB for the Mexican military. This course was taught entirely in Spanish and wouldn’t have been possible without my LEAP training and the connections I established through the program.

“LEAP has significantly improved my Spanish by teaching me to engage cross-culturally with other Spanish speaking nations and in a manner which powers interoperability amongst our allies. In 2020, I was hired as the Director of Education at the Vosler NCO Officer Academy and am currently serving as a professional military education instructor.

“In my current position, I have utilized my LEAP training to host education seminars online. My first experience learning via video conferencing was during my first e-mentor class back in 2015. LEAP was ahead of its time utilizing video conferencing for education seminars way before COVID forced everyone else to pivot. When COVID started, most professional military education academies had to transition to teaching online. Having had virtual e-mentor experiences, this was not new to me, and I adapted quickly. I also use my experiences through LEAP to help me as a leader and manager within my organization.

“LEAP thus far has been phenomenal. I have had the opportunity to travel to Colombia, Peru and Spain through LEAP. All of my Language Intensive Training Events were education-based and focused on improving my Spanish and leadership skills. However, the connections made during these LITEs extended beyond my time in the classrooms, and I was able to help our Embassy Military Groups advance their missions abroad.

“When a member travels abroad through LEAP, two things happen concurrently. First, the member actively works toward improving their language and cross-cultural competencies. Secondly, and most importantly, in my opinion, LEAP is taking a technical expert from a specific field and empowering them to mentor our partners, demonstrating the value the United States brings to the host nation’s mission and ultimately improving interoperability amongst allies.

“The skills I gained being the protocol officer for INCOA and ISOS were critical toward being hired for the Director of Education position at the Vosler NCO Academy under the United States Space Force. LEAP gave me skills and experiences I would have never gained within my AFSC. It also allowed me to serve in a PME role while being an intelligence professional. Currently, my role is to teach NCOA to Airmen and Guardians while helping the USSF stand up its first Enlisted PME Center. In the future, I hope to leverage LEAP to help bring international students to attend United States Space Force Enlisted PME courses. Without LEAP, I would not be working for the USSF today.”

-Spanish LEAP Scholar SMSgt. Adrian Gaxiola