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LEAP Spotlight: Tech Sgt. Volodymyr Palko

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  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

“I completed my first overseas Language Intensive Training event at the beginning of 2022, which was the most instrumental mission of my career thus far. The purpose of this LITE was to aid U.S. Army Europe during the Ukraine crisis response. 

“This LITE immediately became the defining moment of my Air Force career to that point. I was in a situation for which I was uniquely qualified. The assignment gave me space to exercise my advanced level of Ukrainian and Russian foreign language proficiency. For my current assignment, this LITE allowed me to demonstrate the applicability and the effectiveness of my language and, most importantly, cultural expertise in the ad-hoc environment.

“This LITE increased my LREC skillset through valuable engagements with representatives of allied foreign military forces. I learned the intricacies of contemporary Ukrainian and Russian military vernacular. Furthermore, I built confidence when operating and briefing high-ranking (O-5 level) military officials. I also practiced and improved my language skillset when dealing with logistics operations, shipment of goods, and personnel management, as well as the nomenclature of various military weaponry and equipment. During my time in Poland, I gained a strong understanding of local attitudes towards a NATO-Poland partnership and regional political and ideological intricacies, specifically those dealing with crises escalated by Russia.

“By choosing me to participate in this LITE, the U.S. generally benefited from having a person best fit for the assignment. During my time in Poland, I operated as a liaison between Ukrainian civilian and senior military personnel and U.S. 82nd and 101st airborne divisions, thus establishing a multi-national transportation and logistics hub. My efforts directly enabled the emergency delivery of $3B of international aid to the Ukrainian people and ultimately shaped Ukraine’s initial strong military response to Russian aggression. The work establishing the supply system continued to benefit U.S.-Ukraine relations and preserved the role of the U.S. as the key stakeholder in the conflict.

“During this LITE, I interacted heavily with native Ukrainian and Polish military and civilian personnel, U.K. military personnel, and civilian government officials. These interactions gave me a stronger understanding of communications methods used in multi-national settings. I learned the basics of rank structure, seniority, and decision-making chain of command for U.S. partner-nations. I also interacted with general Polish populace during my stay in this country, where I learned the intricacies of interaction and gained a better understanding of ideological moods of local people. During my communication with partner-nation officials, I had an opportunity to practice orienting my communication to match the multi-national magnitude of this LITE. Simultaneously, I was able to build a positive relationship with Ukrainian military partners and bolster the reputation of the U.S., U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Army.

“This was my first in-person LITE event, and I was thoroughly impressed at the scale of the potential impact of my linguist support to the mission. Not only was this opportunity beneficial to me in terms of practicing language skills, it also was tremendously beneficial for my professional development as an intelligence analyst and as my flight’s operations chief." (In addition, this opportunity was instrumental in Tech. Sgt. Palko's future career development by contributing to his selection for permanent reassignment to a key language designated position.)

“I would first challenge everyone with language skills not to doubt themselves and to become strong vocal ambassadors representing their unique cultural backgrounds. I want to motivate them to understand their innate knowledge is what the current most senior military and political leadership sorely needs. Second, I want to advise prospective LEAP Scholars not to be content with what they already know. Instead, I would ask them to continue honing their language skillset to improve or maintain it. It is up to people like us to build the level of appreciation of LREC expertise and consequently improve warfighting readiness across the DoD. In the age of information warfare spread through disinformation, LEAP Scholars will be best prepared to provide an adequate response to the adversary.”

-Ukrainian LEAP Scholar Tech Sgt. Volodymyr Palko

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