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LEAP Spotlight: Capt. Victoria Smith

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  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

“I graduated from American University with a B.A. in French in 2007, then jumped into what would be a nearly 10-year corporate career in international education. I worked as the Indonesia Program Director for Learning Enterprises, a non-profit organization committed to offering free English classes to underprivileged communities in developing nations. I was then a Global Consultant for Berlitz Languages.

“After meeting my husband in 2014, who is also an Active Duty member, I realized maintaining a career myself would be challenging due to regular PCSs. Rather than give that up, I decided to apply for a commission, which I earned in 2016 after graduating from Officer Training School. After graduating from 14N tech school, my first assignment was with the 100th Operations Support Squadron at RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. I am currently stationed at Beale AFB, assigned to the 9th Intelligence Squadron as a Flight Commander, where I oversee a team of 45 imagery analysts working 24/7/365 in support of global MQ-9 operations.

“I had an interesting start to my language journey in life. I wanted to take Spanish in 7th grade, but luckily for me, the class was full, and I was placed into French. That was where my love affair with the French language and Francophone culture began. I spent a year in northern France as a high school exchange student from 2001-2002, and I have never looked back. In addition to French, I have also studied Indonesian, Italian, and Russian, but French will always be my first language love.

“I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program from fellow language nerds at OTS back in 2016. Being new to the Air Force and still trying to find my way, I didn’t complete the requirements and apply to LEAP until 2019. What interested me about the program most was the potential opportunities to use my French in ways that impact national security. As an Intelligence Officer, I have grown to understand just how critical our foreign partnerships are, and I feel so fortunate to have the chance to be a part of forging and maintaining those relationships.

“My LEAP experience so far has been truly unbelievable. In the very short two and a half years I have been a LEAP Scholar, I have had the opportunity to participate in incredible translation projects, including mental health Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for the Chadian military; Survival Evasion Resistance Escape guides for Gabon’s anti-poaching forces; C2 training for our partners in Niger; and cybersecurity academics for Exercise African Lion. I have also been an interpreter and guide for the Belgian Air Force sports teams for two NATO Allied Air Command tournaments and participated in the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s inaugural Belt & Road Initiative Advanced Special Emphasis Language Intensive Training Event. 

“During the BRI ASE LITE, I had the privilege of collaborating with French, Spanish, and Chinese LEAP Scholars in a two-week study of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In addition to attending lectures from subject matter experts on China’s foreign policy, the four other French scholars and I spent afternoons in intensive language study focusing on how China’s BRI has affected USAFRICOM. Not only has LEAP provided me with phenomenal, unique experiences, but its investment in my development as a language-enabled Airman has directly impacted National Defense Strategy objectives. 

“My current team of intelligence analysts supports MQ-9 missions all over the world, so my LEAP experiences and training on China and AFRICOM have proven to be very useful. Despite not being in a language-related career field, LEAP has given me a way to continue pursuing that side of my life. LEAP has enriched my life in the Air Force by enabling me to serve using my interests and skills outside of my AFSC.”

--French LEAP Scholar Capt. Victoria Smith

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