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

Multilingual Leadership: Speaking the Language, Airmanship, and Partnership

  • Published
  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

Several Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars and Foreign Area Officers recently supported exercise RELAMPAGO VII with the South Carolina Air National Guard. This exercise focused on training techniques, tactics, and procedures to strengthen interoperability between the United States and Colombian Air Forces.

“Building the Relampago exercise since 2012, for sure, lets us strengthen our partnership and lets us know that we are still allies and contributing to the stability in this region,” said Colombian Air Force Maj. Rommel Rodriguez, 111th Fighter Squadron commander. “The language can sometimes be a barrier, but the exercise is not just for the pilots, it is also for maintenance and support.” 

While language is typically a barrier during this exercise, LEAP Scholars and FAOs were on the ground providing language and technical support to minimize the obstacle of communication this year. Spanish LEAP Scholar Capt. Tyler McGuire was among the team providing support by managing logistics and coordinating ground transportation for the exercise.

“We just concluded RELAMPAGO VII, and Capt. Tyler McGuire was hands-down the superstar of the entire exercise. He managed a fleet of 23 vehicles driven by host-nation civilians, orchestrating the movements of hundreds of people from the hotels to the base, which were 45 minutes apart. He also coordinated with the base and hotels to coordinate accurate head counts for food and oversaw the download/uploading of all cargo for the C-17s and passenger reception/departure,” Col. William McDowell, Commander of the 612th Theater Operations Group, said.

McGuire possessed the technical expertise to efficiently conduct logistics and coordination for the event from working in aerial port squadrons and fuel supply on a routine basis. Paired with the language and culture skills gained in LEAP, McGuire was fully prepared for utilization when selected for this exercise.

“This was my first time formally working fully in my target language, and there was little room for error in my support function. It was imperative that my team of host-nation drivers understood and connected with me, so it was a good test of my language and culture skills,” McGuire explained. “I can’t thank LEAP enough for preparing me for this opportunity. I took advantage of all the training through LEAP, and that led to my success on the ground there.”

Knowing the language was only a small portion of operating in that type of environment for McGuire. There were many different cultural aspects he had to learn to effectively communicate with and lead his team. 

“I was fortunate to have such an amazing team during those few weeks.  It was a great opportunity to work with our Colombian partners and learn more about their culture,” McGuire explained.  “Knowing the language is only part of communicating, you need to also be cognoscente of the many subtleties within a culture and be considerate of that.”

According to Col. McDowell, Capt. McGuire’s “bilingual leadership, technical acumen at his job and core characteristics as an officer” prepared him to be integrated by design with the South Carolina National Guard and the Colombian Air Forces during this exercise.

“With everything under his oversight, [McGuire] was the critical point of interaction for everyone and almost every aspect of the exercise.  He was polite, kind, positive and above all, patient. He dealt with the VIPs, and the mission requirements, getting to ‘yes’ when able, and saying ‘no’ in such a way that everyone understood,” Col. McDowell said. “As we polled every unit and section for outstanding performers…every single team, Colombian and U.S., mentioned Capt. McGuire.”

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