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

LEAP Spotlight: Maj. James Beard

  • Published
  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

“I’ve been Active Duty in the Air Force for 13 years. One of the reasons I joined was the opportunity to travel overseas and experience different places. I have a master’s degree in Latin American Studies, which I acquired a few years after my undergraduate degree. I lived in Europe as a kid and was able to pick up French; this is the language I use in the Language Enabled Airman Program. 

“I’ve been in LEAP since it started in 2010. The opportunity for more formal language training and using it productively while I’m in the Air Force is what interested me the most about LEAP. 

“One of my highlights in LEAP was being asked to participate in the African Air Chiefs Symposium in Morocco. I went there as an informal interpreter to translate between U.S. Air Force leaders and leaders from all the French-speaking countries in Africa. It was a great operational way to use French and get immersed in issues affecting the continent while also seeing the perspective of senior leadership.

“I also recently attended the Belt and Road Advanced Special Emphasis Language Intensive Training Event. It was a great initiative because it opened my eyes to the influence of China all over the world, including here in Iraq. Aside from the language benefits, the course has reshaped how I think about the conflicts we’re facing around the world.

“LEAP has impacted both my personal life and my professional life in the Air Force. It has made me keep up with my French; I really try to stay engaged with it and study on my own. It’s amazing how many different places I’ve used the language skills I’ve gained in LEAP.

“There have been several times in the Air Force I’ve had to use French for military purposes. Outside of LEAP, I was deployed to West Africa for seven months in Burkina Faso, a French-speaking country. I used French every day to engage with partner forces and facilitate Air Force operations in the region. I’m currently deployed to Baghdad, where I work side by side with French officers and use my French every day as well. 

“You learn to work with new cultures through LEAP. I’m working directly with Iraqi culture every day here, and LEAP has given me a new perspective on working with military partners. Some of those partners are French officers as well. A lot of their English isn’t great, so I can speak with them in French to discuss mission planning, which I wouldn’t be able to do without French.

“I would encourage other Airmen interested in LEAP to absolutely do it! It’s one of the best programs the Air Force has. I’m in a joint position on this deployment, and I’ve told other people in other branches about LEAP. They all wish they had something like it in the Army, Marines, and Navy because many people have these language skills that are not being used. The Air Force does a great job using the talent it has.”

-French LEAP Scholar Maj. James Beard

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