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AFCLC and Squadron Officer School Establish First Formal Active-Duty Record for Cadet Language Events

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

The Air Force Culture and Language Center partnered with the Squadron Officer School at Air University to establish the first process to formally recognize pre-commissioning language events for cadets from the United States Air Force Academy and Air Force ROTC in an official United States Air Force system of record.

This innovative concept stems from a group project idea presented at the Squadron Officer School’s 22A Think Tank cohort, which took place from November 8, 2021, to December 15, 2021.

“Think Tank is one of our competitive electives at SOS, where a select group of students tackle a major Air Force- or DoD-wide issue and ultimately present creative solutions to senior leaders. These students go above and beyond the SOS curriculum and are coached by instructors through design thinking principles, which they use to prototype their approaches,” Lt. Col. John Yi, 33rd Student Squadron Commander at Squadron Officer School and Korean LEAP Scholar, explained. 

AFCLC partnered with SOS on this initiative to establish a process that will identify strategic capabilities in future Airmen as charged by Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. in Action Order A.

“The overall goal of this initiative is to identify language training that future officers receive while they are in AFROTC or USAFA so we can further develop them in their language as they continue through their career,” AFCLC’s Language Division Deputy Chief Col. Chip Barton said. “As one of the Air Force organizations that leads language, regional expertise, and culture education, AFCLC was the logical choice to assist SOS in identifying ways the Air Force could get after this challenge.”

Team 2 focused on identifying cultural and language talent during this cohort to build strategic partnerships. Their overall goal for the project was to provide a solution to better inform selection for special programs and language-designated assignments by enhancing identification of existing talent.

“The team’s challenge was to come up with a solution on how to better develop and document language capabilities within Airmen. After hearing some background on AFCLC and what we do, a team of six captains came up with this initiative to identify the scholarships, immersion programs, and language events cadets experience when they are in ROTC or USAFA to document in their permanent record,” Barton explained. “If they want to be in the Language Enabled Airman Program or become Foreign Area Officers, decision-makers can see they already have some language proficiency and experience even before entering into active duty.” 

Capt. Karen Degraphenreid, a Program Manager at SAF/AQ, participated on the team that presented this idea during the 22A Think Tank.

“We were given a challenge to figure out how to better leverage existing language and culture skills among the force. We figured that a lot of information senior leaders want about existing language and culture skills within the force was already out there, but there wasn’t a central place to track it,” she explained. 

Several members of her group participated in study abroad or language programs as cadets in AFROTC or USAFA, but their events weren’t documented in a central tracking system once they commissioned to active duty. The team decided to develop a solution to utilize the Air Force systems already in place to create a process for tracking these types of events.

“Ultimately, our goal is to make decisions for commanders and leadership easier by informing them of personnel skillsets and enable targeted hiring for these special assignments that can forge these strategic partnerships,” Degraphenreid said.

To implement this initiative, AFCLC and SOS collaborated with the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, USAFA, AFROTC, and the Air Force Personnel Center to identify pre-commissioning courses, create course codes in the Military Personnel Data System, and develop an annual process for uploading data on cadets who complete these courses to their system of record.

“This specific initiative, just like many of our SOS Think Tank ideas, was important for us to pursue since it serves as a reminder that the benefits of professional military education are not just theoretical but can be tangible and impactful in application. It also shows the power of collaboration when you can connect a diverse group of captains and civilians and provide them with a safe space to ideate, test, and pitch their innovations,” Yi said.

While this program had no direct financial cost to implement, it will have substantial operational impact on the USAF’s ability to identify language and cultural capabilities for newly commissioned officers for immediate utilization.

“This process will reinforce to incoming cadets realize the value of language, regional expertise, and culture training. It’s a competency that the Air Force is keenly interested in further developing. Enacting this initiative will start the continuous thread of LREC that will run throughout their careers,” Barton explained.

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