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LEAP Spotlight: Capt. Aigerim Akhmetova

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  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

“I’m currently deployed to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, while assigned to 92nd Force Support Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. AFMAO has global responsibility for all Air Force mortuary matters for current and past conflicts. Additionally, it operates the nation’s sole port mortuary and provides global contingency mortuary response teams in support of Air Force and combatant command requirements.

“My journey with languages began in Kazakhstan when I started learning English in late middle to high school. I continued studying English and French in college, firmly settling in my goals to explore what was beyond the horizon and outside of what I was familiar and comfortable with. I knew that knowing languages would get me closer to exploring new ground, cultures and communities worldwide.

“With this passion, I traveled to the U.S. and continued my education, later joining the Air Force. When I first enlisted into the Air Force and discovered the Language Enabled Airman Program, I was excited and patiently waited to meet the time requirements for application. Meanwhile, I explored other opportunities in the local community to sustain and develop my language proficiency and help others, such as serving at the local cultural center and refugee assistance center. It was a very rewarding experience seeing the power and influence of culture and language and how it can impact one’s life.

“I was accepted as a LEAP Scholar for Kazakh and Russian languages in 2018. My interest in LEAP sparked when I first learned about it early in my career. I knew that this program would be a right fit for me because of my passion for exploring new ground and helping people. The idea that I could travel on various missions around the world, sustain and develop my language proficiency, and help bridge cultures and communities sounded like a win-win scenario!

“Since I’ve been in LEAP, I’ve been offered opportunities to be part of missions around the world. Meeting different people with similar backgrounds and interests is a great thing during these missions. I’ve met some amazing folks and made lifelong friends, which I’m grateful for.

“My latest LEAP opportunity, which was also my Language Intensive Training Event, was personal. I provided language support for the Joint Combined Exchange Training between the United States Army and Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Forces, which took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from Nov. 1-26, 2021. During this training, the U.S. and Kazakhstan forces exchanged expertise in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, Humanitarian Assistance, Peacekeeping Operations, Civil Affairs, and much more. It was personal because it meant I would have the opportunity to return to my native land and strengthen relations between the countries and cultures. Growing up in Kazakhstan, my parents instilled the Kazakh traditions and respect to native soil. I was excited, prepared, and beyond grateful to the Air Force, my Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, and 92nd Force Support Squadron family for supporting me in this journey back to my native land.

“As the LEAP Scholar during JCET, my task was to facilitate communication by translating and interpreting all instructions into Kazakh, Russian and English languages. I was attached to the 96th Civil Affairs Team 651 during this mission. This team was an incredible group of hardworking professionals who truly embody the meaning of excellence despite any challenges, loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, personal courage or teamwork. It was an invaluable experience, and I was lucky to have this opportunity to work with such an excellent team.

“This opportunity to support JCET as a LEAP scholar reemphasized the importance of promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the international arena. Joint training programs like JCET are force multipliers and tools to develop and sustain security and stability in Central Asia. Considering Kazakhstan is a gateway to Central Asia, this was an excellent example of bilateral cooperation on a tactical level--building relations, exchanging practices and lessons learned, developing a common understanding, and promoting camaraderie between military service members. International level military exercises aid in developing trust, confidence, and better understanding between the nations, thus further facilitating interoperability and conduct of joint military operations towards a common goal in times of response and collaboration in uncertain environments. It was truly an honor to serve both countries in this capacity and be part of this mission.

“LEAP is a great program and positively impacts our strategic objectives by building and strengthening strategic alliances around the world. As one of the partner-nation students said in their closing remarks, ‘We felt no barriers in communication or culture starting from the first week because you were here. We are very thankful that you were with us.’

“I believe this speaks volumes as to what we do as LEAP Scholars and the impact we leave behind.”

- Kazakh LEAP Scholar Capt. Aigerim Akhmetova

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