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Language-Enabled Airmen Support Senior Enlisted Leader International Summit

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

During a strategic gathering of senior enlisted leaders from more than 60 partner nations, a team of 14 Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars from the Air Force Culture and Language Center were on the ground ensuring communication and collaboration happened effectively.

The 2022 Senior Enlisted Leader International Summit, held Aug. 1-5, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia, brought together international senior enlisted counterparts with the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force to discuss issues affecting the international community of enlisted Airmen and to further build relationships.

“These 14 LEAP Scholars serving as SELIS ambassadors were selected from among the 936 enlisted LEAP Scholars across our Air Force and Space Force,” AFCLC Language Division Chief Christopher Chesser said. “They are demonstrating the impact a language enabled service member can have in a room of partner nation senior leaders … communicating not only in the language of the partner nation but also in the language of airmanship.”

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass hosted the summit and thanked LEAP Scholars for their support.

“I appreciate what these LEAP Scholars bring to the fight. They are making a strategic impact!” she stated in a social media comment.

During this event, senior leaders worldwide discussed their perspectives on security cooperation and national defense strategies to enhance partner interoperability. LEAP Scholars were called on to ensure discussions across all languages represented were accurately and effectively interpreted.

Senior Master Sgt. Gary Woo, Enlisted International Affairs Manager with SAF/IA and a SELIS planning committee lead, assisted with coordination of the event and orchestrated LEAP involvement.

“LEAP Scholars facilitated in-person interpretation for nine unique languages in what was the largest ever international summit hosted by the Department of the Air Force. In addition, 61 partner and ally nations plus NATO were represented by their highest senior enlisted leaders and representatives,” Woo explained. “Attendees heard from the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Ukraine’s Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, as well as the Deputy Director of the National Security Council, Executive Office of the President of the United States.”

For the LEAP Scholars, SELIS provided a significant opportunity for integration and utilization of the key language, regional expertise, and culture skills they had been maintaining and enhancing over time through LEAP education and training. Russian LEAP Scholar Master Sgt. Rob Kudratov was part of the LEAP team who participated in what he called the “Super Bowl of AFCLC LEAP LITEs.”

“The event challenged LEAP Scholars to apply all their language and culture skills acquired and honed through eMentor, immersion, and hybrid learning. The LEAP team provided asynchronous and synchronous interpretations and cultural expertise across nine target languages,” Kudratov said. “Throughout the event, we enabled direct communication between Senior Enlisted representatives from more than 60 countries and USAF regional components [AFCENT, AFNORTH, AFSOUTH, PACAF, USAFE-AFRICA] to promote military partnership across the world.”

French LEAP Scholar Tech. Sgt.(s) Ndap Tah was also on the front lines supporting the event and could jump in when the venue’s translation system failed during a senior leader speech.

“This year, SELIS hired a company for live interpretation for all participants. During the question-and-answer session, the participants asked questions in their respective languages, which were translated into English and the answer translated back to their respective languages. Sometimes the system did not function properly. For a particular question, a senior leader was very passionate about the topic of space and cyberspace and did not recognize he had to give some time for almost simultaneous interpretation. I was able to step in and provide support to effectively facilitate the conversation,” Tah explained.

While Tah played a key role in facilitating senior leader conversations, he also valued the team building, networking, and strategic conversations he experienced during the event.

“There was so much valuable information shared from various perspectives on how senior leaders deal with challenges across the globe, from building efficient teams to dealing with global threats from Russia and China,” he said. “I also noticed our senior leaders were constantly involved in idea sharing with colleagues and friends they made over the years serving. My participation in this event has allowed me to network with new teams and gain exposure to new AFSCs. Overall, SELIS was a great event to be part of, sharing ideas and coordinating international policies with partner nations across the globe.” 

Senior leaders from around the world were able to connect, collaborate, and communicate effectively with the support of LEAP Scholars during one of the largest bi-annual gatherings of enlisted leaders from partner nations.

“SELIS is a platform to synchronize and integrate military cooperation around the globe,” Kudratov said. “Integration of LEAP Scholars in the event during event planning allowed us to accelerate the partnership-building process with different nations around the world. This is something we [Airmen] all can take back home and consider ways to tackle daily operational challenges through diverse and deliberate planning processes.”

Several LEAP Scholars received coins or patches from CMSAF Bass in recognition of their support for the event.

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