AFCLC, Air Force Culture and Language Center, Air Force's Global Classroom

LEAP Scholars Attend New SNCO Academy Course at IAAFA to Address Partner Nation Needs

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

Spanish Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars Master Sgt. Alfredo Miranda Rosales and Master Sgt. Carlo Estrada Oquendo were among the first U.S. participants and Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars selected to attend the new Inter-American Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy course.

The Inter-American Air Force Academy partnered with the Barnes Center in developing this advanced professional military education course to prepare future SNCOs for more advanced leadership and increased responsibilities in the joint, combined and interagency operating/strategic environment. Specifically, I-SNCOA educates SNCOs to adapt, think critically, and become strategically relevant leaders in their operating environment. Additionally, graduates learn how to effectively lead the enlisted force, communicate rank-appropriate tasks, and model and develop military attributes.

For both Scholars, attending the course was a walk down memory lane. Miranda Rosales previously worked at IAAFA as a curriculum developer, and Estrada Oquendo had previously participated in an NCO course at IAAFA as a student.

Through his participation in LEAP, Miranda Rosales was selected to represent the USAF while working at the 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Travis AFB, CA, and in preparation for his next assignment with the 12th Air Force in the Security Cooperation Program.

“I was previously assigned to IAAFA, and it was there I learned about LEAP and the growth capabilities it could provide to me. After doing a little more research, I applied during the 2015 cycle and was selected to come aboard on the program,” Miranda Rosales said. “For me, it was important to look at opportunities to build my cross-cultural competency and elevate my native language proficiency, which had taken a back seat for a long time. I was offered a slot through LEAP for this new I-SNCOA course and decided to jump on the opportunity.”

Estrada Oquendo, 4th AMU Support Section Chief, 1 SOAMXS Hurlburt Field, learned about the course through his Chief after Air Education and Training Command notified all of the major commands about the new course. His Unit Squadron and the MAJCOM nominated him.

“The interview process, in preparation for the course, was 100% in Spanish. I mentioned I was a prior student from IAAFA. It was a highly competitive process because you had to be qualified in Spanish with your DLPT scores. I also mentioned I was a LEAP Scholar, which helped with my credentials during the review process,” he said.

The course took place at IAAFA at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. During the eight weeks of immersive language training fully in the target language, the two LEAP Scholars worked side-by-side with representatives from several Latin American countries, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic.

“To be fully immersed for eight weeks into the language, culture, values and interactions with our partner nations was an invaluable experience,” Miranda Rosales said. “The course was fully in Spanish, which prepares you for the next level of language proficiency. It opened opportunities to be able to speak it, write it, and read it at a more professional level.”

The course also offered the opportunity for Total Force Integration with the Air National Guard.

“There were two members from the New Mexico Air National Guard who attended the course. The unique perspectives from our partners in the Air National Guard were enlightening,” Miranda Rosales said.

Hearing viewpoints from different nations and exchanging ideas and experiences brought value to the environment for the Scholars. Throughout the course, they were able to get a sense of how our partner nations interact and understand their needs and what it is to be a member of the Armed Forces in their countries.

“By far, this was the most fulfilling course I have ever attended. I’m honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to take the next level of PME and at the same time get more immersed into the culture working side by side with partners from several Latin American nations,” Miranda Rosales reiterated. “This is the strategic level view I needed in my career. As an Airman, it taught me what it means to strengthen partner nations through education. It also gave me a ten thousand-foot view of what our senior leaders are looking at from a strategic level and what SNCOs need to do to meet the needs of the Air Force and our country as a whole.”

Estrada Oquendo called the course “the experience of a lifetime” and recommended it to other Spanish-speaking LEAP Scholars and SNCOs.

“It’s all about teamwork between students from the USAF and Inter-American countries. We navigated through the entire course as one group; I can say I made new friends, and that’s the whole purpose of Inter-Americanism,” he said. “I also gained new insight about how to be a Senior NCO, including how to inspire and lead subordinates, maintain a healthy work environment, overcome toxic leadership, lead diverse generations, resource management, situational leadership, and problem-solving among other things. However, what I liked the most was that we got the opportunity to share our experiences with law enforcement officers and military members from different branches of other nations. It gave me a new perspective.”

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