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Siblings of LEAP: Major Marie and Captain Liana Gaudreault

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

Growing up in a military home with Air Force parents, Maj. Marie Gaudreault and Capt. Liana Gaudreault both continued the legacy by joining the Air Force. As sibling pilots in the Air Force and French Scholars in the Language Enabled Airman Program, the Gaudreaults are living out their life journeys separately but together.

When deciding to join the Air Force, Marie joined for the stability and comfort of maintaining the lifestyle she’d always known.

“Both our parents were in the Air Force, so that was the only life I knew growing up. I was very intimidated by civilian life. It seemed like there were a lot of things the Air Force took care of for you and made life a lot easier to handle,” she said. “Having grown up in an Air Force family, I knew the culture and what the expectations were instead of having to head out into the world on my own, which was a big motivator for me. The United States Air Force Academy was close to home and easy to visit. My father was also a pilot and took me out on his private plane growing up, and that seemed like a pretty fun job I could see myself doing.”

On the other hand, Liana’s decision to join the Air Force was fueled by her free spirit, admiration for her sister, and her love of language.

“When I was applying to colleges, USAFA was on my list only because I wanted to prove I could get accepted the same way my sister did. I had no intentions of going there, however. Through the process of visiting my sister and hearing stories about experiences in the Air Force, I became more interested. When it came to decision time, and I still hadn’t decided where I was going to go, I felt like USAFA was the only college that would be a decision I made just for myself. My mom’s side was pulling for a certain college, and my dad’s side was rooting for another college. Of the three I was looking at, USAFA wasn’t even on my radar, but it was the only one I selected just for me and not for anyone else. Knowing my personality now, it ended up being the right decision for sure. I’m glad my sister paved the way because I would never have considered it otherwise,” she said.

Both sisters began their language journeys in similar ways. They started taking French classes in middle school and continued through high school. They then both continued their language journeys at USAFA and received USAFA-sponsored master’s degrees in French Literature for Marie and Cultural Anthropology for Liana. Their journeys into LEAP, however, were quite different.

Marie had a tough journey getting into LEAP, but she persevered until she was selected for the program.

“I found out about LEAP at the academy. It seemed like a great way to maintain language skills and enhance cultural awareness. After I left USAFA, I didn’t get the chance to apply to LEAP immediately. I tried to, but there was some confusion with the application, and it never got sent to the Air Force Culture and Language Center,” she said. “I attempted to apply for LEAP a few more times; one time, I got turned down because I was starting pilot training, and my commander at the time didn’t understand that I wouldn’t be required to take language classes at the same time as my training. I just continued with self-study and managed to improve my DLPT scores and eventually got accepted into LEAP.”

A few years later, Liana applied for LEAP and had an opposite experience from her sister.

“I also found out about LEAP at USAFA. While waiting for my leave date for my master’s degree program in France, I applied for LEAP. I got picked up right away. Fortunately, I didn’t run into the same issues my sister had.

“What interested me about it was getting to be more involved in language. I enjoy flying, but I love language. Being able to travel, meet people all over the world and learn their culture and language is awesome to me. Knowing someone’s language, culture, and background is what makes diplomacy effective. If I could put 90% of my effort anywhere, I would want to put it into the language and culture aspect. LEAP is very globally-minded and tries to connect people from all over. That’s where my passion is,” she said.

While both sisters have had differing experiences with the LEAP training, they both agreed LEAP has enhanced their time in the Air Force.

Marie has completed several eMentor courses and attended a Language Intensive Training Event studying in Benin for four weeks. While in LEAP, she was picked up for the USAFA Faculty Pipeline program to teach French. She is also an evaluator in the RQ4 aircraft.

“LEAP helped me get accepted into my master’s program for French Literature at UC Boulder. One of my former eMentor instructors wrote a letter of recommendation for me while helping me enhance my language skills. The eMentor courses are key in being able to practice. While I haven’t used French much directly as a pilot, the cultural aspect taught in LEAP is always helpful,” Marie said.

For Liana, LEAP has been one of her main motivators while in the Air Force.

“I would say that being in LEAP has kept me motivated. The training pipeline for being a pilot can be very slow and structured, so it’s easy to feel stagnant. Having LEAP as my side gig is an outlet to use other capabilities and skills and diversify my talent set. It has been eye-opening to give me a worldlier perspective of what’s going on outside of the U.S. I haven’t used my language skills specifically in my pilot training, but LEAP has given me hope for branching out in the future in language utilization in the Air Force,” she said.

Liana began taking eMentor courses during her pilot training and has had the opportunity to complete several local LITEs, including translating for African Air Chiefs at a Building Partnership Capacity Seminar and attending AFCLC’s Belt and Road Initiative Advanced Special Emphasis LITE.

During the BRI ASE LITE, AFCLC discovered the two French Scholars were siblings. While Liana participated in the LITE, Marie was TDY on a deployment. Marie was still receiving notifications about BRI, however, and Liana was not. At that time, AFCLC and the sisters realized that the emails going to one sister were really for the other.
Liana was also supposed to join Marie on her deployment in the United Arab Emirates but was unable to. The sisters hope to cross paths again and receive a deployment or assignment together in the future. For now, they are both planning their wedding receptions for the summer of 2022.

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