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

AFCLC’s International Aircrew Cultural Training Qualifies for Special Experience Identifier

  • Published
  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

The Air Force Culture and Language Center’s course for the NATO AWACS unit at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, now qualifies for a special experience identifier in the United States Air Force system of record.

Students can apply for the Tier I SEI after taking the course and spending a year on-station in Germany.

“When this program came online at the beginning of 2021, our squadron commander recognized the unique challenges that come from not only living in Europe but especially working in the NATO environment. To help members convey that experience on their records, the commander approved the Level 1 Special Experience Identifier for the European Theater to be added to our records. This identifier aids in identifying our members for future opportunities when they leave NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany,” NATO AWACS Group Executive Officer Capt. Kalan Clark, said.

AFCLC’s Associate Professor of Regional and Cultural Studies (Europe) Dr. Elizabeth Peifer teaches the course for NATO AWACS and played a role in advocating for the Tier I SEI.

“Working towards the Tier I SEI had always been a goal in developing the course,” Dr. Peifer explained. “Working in an international environment daily requires developing cross-cultural competencies. In awarding the SEI, the Air Force recognizes this additional skill set. It is our hope that having the SEI will demonstrate the added value these skills bring to the service when they are being considered for promotion and other assignments.”

The course, known as the International Aircrew Cultural Training or InterACT, is designed to enhance interoperability across a crew force of 16 nations. The overall goal of the course is to create cultural interoperability that translates into improved crew resource management in the tactical mission and positive relationships that pay strategic dividends long after the NATO AWACS assignment ends.

“The purpose of the course is to enhance intercultural cooperation among international aircrews assigned to NATO,” Dr. Peifer said. “Strengthening cross-cultural competency and intercultural communication improves crew resource management and leads to greater mission effectiveness.”

Each course is tailored by the feedback received from students to ensure the content offered is the most relevant and impactful curriculum for the students.

“The impact of the course on our members is immeasurable. We spend most of our careers working under the traditional U.S. Air Force structure, then step outside of that to work directly for NATO. The unique aspect is that we get to do this with members from 16 other nations! We have a U.S. squadron, but our members are split amongst multiple NATO squadrons to facilitate the mission. Because of this, we worked with AFCLC to design a course that gives our members the cross-cultural, interchangeable skills needed to help apply their experiences to the European environment and work with members from vastly different regions and histories on this continent,” Clark explained.

By preparing NATO Airmen for assignments in multinational units with specific emphasis on the European region, this course addresses key instruction from the 2022 National Defense Strategy on strengthening bonds with partners and allies to reach regional goals.

“The most recent NDS emphasizes the importance of partnerships and alliances. InterACT contributes directly to fostering and enhancing relations with our NATO partners by improving interoperability at the personal level,” Dr. Peifer said.

Due to the success of the course, the NATO AWACS team is now able to offer the course to other units across Europe.

“This is a phenomenal course with an outstanding cadre of professors at the helm instructing. We've seen our members implement what they've learned firsthand and have success here at NATO,” Clark said.

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