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Accelerating Learning Through AFCLC’s Data-Driven Culture

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

Since its inception in 2006, the Air Force Culture and Language Center has consistently developed, sustained, and enhanced the cross-cultural competence of Airmen and Guardians through innovative tools, education, and resources all reinforced by AFCLC’s data-driven culture.

As charged by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. in his modified Action Orders, AFCLC utilizes data as the foundation to transform the way service members learn across all facets of USAF education while preparing them for strategic utilization anytime, anywhere.

“At AFCLC, data is our culture. Everything from our training regimens and developmental resources to our impactful curriculum and educational tools are all built utilizing years of data collected and analyzed by subject matter experts and analytical professionals,” AFCLC’s Director Mr. Howard Ward said. “Our ability to access, aggregate, and interpret data has allowed us to always stay one step ahead of the game in providing the most innovative, relevant, and impactful training to develop a cross-culturally competent total force.”

One resource AFCLC utilizes to develop and train language-enabled service members is the Language Enabled Development Resource or LEaDeR. As a language, regional expertise, and culture training management system, LEaDeR allows real-time data updates and interfacing between AFCLC staff, language-enabled service members, and LREC partners.

“Having access to this information allows LEAP Scholars to see where their current levels are and strive to improve them,” AFCLC’s Language Development Coordinator Mr. Steve Felts said. “LEaDeR also provides links to the Air Force Global Classroom, a place where they can work on their language and culture capabilities between immersions and eMentor courses. The ‘Resources’ area also provides links to Field Guides and other materials that LEAP Scholars can access to assist in their language/cultural training and development.”

AFCLC manages profiles on all Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars through this secure database, including their Defense Language Proficiency Test and training due dates, course records, and LREC transcripts. Career Field Managers, assignment teams, exercise planners, and other force managers can view the data available in this system through MyVector to identify LREC areas of expertise.

By tracking LEAP Scholars’ training and qualifications and providing an avenue for military and government organizations to utilize these skills at a moment’s notice, LEaDeR effectively connects language and culture skills to total force operational needs.

“Organizations DOD-wide can request LEAP Scholar support through our Training Partnership Requests, and LEaDeR can identify and provide a list of LEAP Scholars that match the qualifications requested. Even though AF/A1 can identify a similar list of qualified individuals, the added knowledge that individuals are part of LEAP is like going through an initial screening to provide the best of the best qualified. LEaDeR tracks these individuals, their training and experience, and makes that information available at a moment’s notice when requested,” Felts said.

Outside of training, development, and utilization for LEAP Scholars, LEaDeR also houses several other capabilities. For example, LEaDeR manages the full application and selection process for both the Cadet and Officer/Enlisted application cycles for LEAP. The system also supports other organizations that lean on AFCLC to facilitate their language and culture training.

“We support others who are not LEAP but are still scholars, such as Foreign Area Officers. We help SAF/IA manage and track in-Region Training for FAOs. We also support other organizations, such as the Office of Special Investigations and the Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, who leverage to help their service members get scheduled and sent out for training. Some of our leadership team at AFCLC are even scholars in LEaDeR and participate in eMentor courses, so the system’s services and capabilities reach far beyond AFCLC,” AFCLC’s Lead System and Database Manager Mr. Matthew Seigler said.

A team of technological gurus work behind the scenes maintaining the secure application for total force utilization. Mr. Matthew Seigler, Ms. Lena Bosheh, and Mr. Mason Glover collaborate in an agile environment on various tasks and projects vital for LEaDeR’s efficiency, such as troubleshooting server issues, importing new data and profiles for new users, documenting database protocols and procedures, and performing coding tasks to enhance the system’s capabilities based on user needs. 

“We meet with the program managers bi-monthly to go over current development and prioritize our backlog for future sprints. In these meetings, we get a chance to collaborate and devise solutions which solve business needs for AFCLC and the total force. We often work with LDCs and the FAO team as well to better understand their day-to-day routines in order to help them work more efficiently,” Glover said.
With the work of the LEaDeR Development Team, the application is utilized across all areas of AFCLC, the total force, and DOD organizations.

 “LEaDer has served as an integral supportive tool in some high-level missions, such as Operation Allied Refuge. Seeing the impact and utilization of LEaDeR in real-world missions is the most rewarding part of the job,” Seigler said.

According to Glover, “LEaDeR makes having the right person, in the right place, at the right time an easy process and gives our service members a tool to continue developing their skills.” 

To enhance the performance and access to LEaDeR for the total force, AFCLC is in the process of migrating the application to a cloud-based platform.

“We’re excited about the migration to a new platform that will give us more space and flexibility to work with,” Bosheh said. “We are consistently training, collaborating, and getting feedback to ensure LEaDeR remains the secure, innovative, and dynamic system that the Air Force needs.”

The LEaDeR Development Team also works with the Analytics department to provide AFCLC leadership with critical information for decision making.

“The LEaDeR Development Team maintains the data and creates any queries or reports requested. The Analytics Team then takes the Director’s requests for areas of interest, pulls the data, analyzes it, and presents their findings back to the Director to provide that data-driven decision space he needs. This provides repeatable, factual results culminating in programmatic decisions,” AFCLC’s Project Manager Mr. Scott Alford said.

The data influences AFCLC’s methodology for training and education to ensure the Center stays on the cutting edge of relevant, impactful, and accessible curriculum and development.

“Through analyzing results from course surveys, vendor feedback, course scores, and Defense Language Proficiency Test scores, AFCLC can monitor if education and training events are producing results or need to be tweaked. This closes the feedback loop and highlights areas of strengths and improvement,” Alford said.

Ultimately, AFCLC’s data-driven culture provides a foundation for continual development and sustainment on a global scale, cultivating critical language and cultural skills that cannot be trained overnight.

“By taking this data-driven approach, AFCLC can provide service members ready for tasking in language and culture with the most efficient use of available resources,” Alford said. “We need to remember these skills can’t be just-in-time trained and delivered. It takes time, resources, and effort to develop them. Our culture of data at AFCLC ensures this development has the best impact for our service members and gets to them by the most efficient means.”

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