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

Never Leave an Airman Behind

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

Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars are utilized worldwide in missions for their language, regional expertise, and cultural skills. Even those who speak low-density languages are integrated by design to build partner interoperability and advance the Air Force mission.

LEAP Scholar Lt. Col. Joshua Bibb speaks Danish, which is considered a low-density language. Low-density languages are languages that have a lower inventory of Scholars and/or are not widely spoken across the force in contrast to languages that are prevalent in the force. 

Bibb recently utilized his Danish language skillset with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to bridge language gaps and overcome communication barriers during an investigation in Denmark to potentially locate and identify missing Airmen from World War II.

"The DPAA team accomplished much more than expected,” Bibb said. “The bilateral relationships we established will be fruitful not only during future searches but as a means of knitting two allies closer together.”
 
Bibb integrated with a team of two historians as the interpreter. His responsibilities included navigating government agencies, arranging meetings, and providing guidance and instructions.

“When language barriers arose, I bridged the gap, especially with team members who preferred to speak Danish exclusively,” Bibb explained. “The local and cultural knowledge I provided removed many obstacles, thus allowing them to concentrate on the mission. Though it is difficult to quantify the value of cultural knowledge, both members of the team were convinced my assistance improved our overall effectiveness.” 

The DPAA team not only accomplished their primary mission but identified other potential crash sites with Bibb integrated within the team.

“This will likely lead to future investigations with the hope of providing closure for relatives of those who remain missing,” he explained.

Bibb also enhanced his LREC skills while supporting DPAA during this mission.

“Despite attempts to maintain my language skillset (through podcasts, television, and reading), nothing could replace the effect of residing in-country. By the end of the Language Intensive Training Event, I felt much more agile and comfortable with the language,” Bibb said. “During the LITE, I was exposed to different agencies throughout the Danish government that I had no previous experience. I established personal rapport with contacts in these agencies that I can call upon in future circumstances. Undoubtedly, the entire LITE deepened my regional expertise.”
 
Ultimately, Bibb strengthened partnerships and furthered the mission of this agency by utilizing his language and culture skills during this impactful event. Additionally, his experience as a member of the Air National Guard’s 177th Operations Group is a testament to the close working relationship between Active Duty and the Air National Guard. 

“This mission is a reminder of why we do what we do. We identify and develop low-density capability, sustain the willing and able, support and integrate the total force, foster relationships with mission partners, and respond to ever-changing demands to serve,” AFCLC’s Language Division Chief Christopher Chesser said. “Lt. Col. Bibb's efforts helped bring about a find that speaks to a core principle of military service: never leave an Airman behind.”

The mission of DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation. For more information, visit https://www.dpaa.mil/.

 

 

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