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

Using Language and Culture Skills to Help and Heal

  • Published
  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team
  • AFCLC

While language, regional expertise, and culture skills can be utilized in many ways to fulfill the United States Air Force mission, Tagalog Language Enabled Airman Program Scholar Capt. Geryn Paguio uses her culture and language skills as a tool to help and heal others. Born in the Philippines and raised there for half her life, Paguio migrated to the United States to pursue a nursing career.

During a routine flight from Okinawa to Tokyo, Paguio’s culture, language, and professional skills put her and her team in the right place at the right time to save a sick passenger’s life. 

“My team and I were on a commercial flight to Tokyo, and there was a Japanese local onboard who experienced a medical emergency. For the entire two hours of the flight, we supported the commercial airline staff to stabilize the patient until he was safely evacuated to an airfield where the local emergency services team could get to him,” Paguio explained. “We were just regular passengers, not working at the time, but we were in the right place at the right time. We didn’t need to speak the language; the commercial airline staff trusted us to help with the situation, which resulted in a positive outcome for the distressed passenger.”

Paguio and her team were recognized by the USAF and the Okinawa Defense Association for their heroic efforts. 

While currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Paguio has also seized every opportunity to enhance her language skills and learn more about the culture while supporting the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron operations for approximately 500 beneficiaries in the USINDOPACOM area of responsibility. Furthermore, her dedication to utilizing and enhancing her LREC skills allowed her to serve as a virtual instructor for the Philippines Air Force’s Continuing Education Program, where she virtually taught over 80 nurses from the Philippines Air Force.

“I was able to share pathology knowledge and our experiences in caring for wounded warriors. Although we don’t certify their flight nurses, we helped with the familiarization as they are trying to bring the Tactical Combat Casualty Care course to their medics and nurses. I’m glad we were able to help them and connect them with partners to start the program. It was a great experience to see so many nurses grow and learn together,” Pagiuo said. 

Paguio is also heavily involved in the Okinawa LEAP Chapter while stationed there. The chapter plays an integral role in LEAP recruitment and sustainment for current and future LEAP Scholars stationed in Okinawa by hosting various events to help language-enabled service members sustain and enhance their language capabilities.

“The Okinawa LEAP Chapter has dedicated LEAP Scholars passionate about promoting LEAP by serving current LEAP Scholars, aspiring LEAP Scholars, and the community,” Paguio said. “They host language proficiency enhancement events, including briefs about best practices for the LEAP application, mock interviews, and language proficiency classes for several languages. These events are open to everyone who wants to enhance and sustain their language skills. It’s amazing to see how motivated people are when there is a focus on culture and language.”

Paguio is looking forward to using the knowledge and skills she has gained through her eMentor courses, virtual Language Intensive Training Event, and other professional experiences to partner on more cultural exchanges to fulfill the USAF mission.

“Truly, having a diverse force will help the mission. You never know, you might be given the opportunity to be that person to translate and be the liaison to conduct a mission and ensure that mission goes well. So just be available and ready when you’re given the opportunity.”
 

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