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

LEAP Spotlight: SMSgt Martha “Priscilla” Meza

  • Published
  • By AFCLC Outreach

“For 20 years, I’ve been entrusted to serve and lead our Airmen in the world’s greatest Air Force while raising my 12-year-old son, Alex. I have a bachelor’s in Business Management and am currently pursuing my master’s in international Relations with a focus in National Security Affairs.  

“I was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona, and my first language was Spanish. My parents taught me language is important and to remember where you came from. During my upbringing, I had no choice but to speak Spanish to my parents and had to quickly learn how to take constructive criticism if I was not pronouncing or saying things correctly. Additionally, I would visit my grandma every summer for three months in Mexico until I turned 16. Those summers, I learned to appreciate any way of life and count my blessings since my grandma lived in a small, poor neighborhood. At 18, I joined the Air Force.

“Over the years, my conversations with other fluent speakers and vocabulary were dwindling. I honestly felt like I was losing myself, but my sense of pride would not let me give up. I had to revive my Spanish speaking skills because it is a part of who I am, and this culture has been engrained in me since I was born. I had to make moves, and when I applied and became a LEAP Scholar, I vowed to become better because I owed that to my parents and, most importantly, my son.   

“I was deployed to Lima, Peru, in 2014, working at the Embassy, and one of my co-workers was in the Language Enabled Airman Program. She told me about it, and I always admired her passion and willingness to improve her language skills. Initially, I thought it was only for officers, but then I realized it was open to enlisted; I made it one of my top goals to become a scholar.  

“As an Intelligence Analyst, I have leveraged my analytical skills and language capability abroad, fortifying relations with our partner nations in Latin America.  

“LEAP and Intel go hand in hand. I can fuse my Intel background and Spanish-speaking abilities to educate Airmen here on Kadena Air Base. LEAP also helps me ‘pay it forward’ to recruit and posture future scholars to join. 

“I mentor Intel Airmen on how China operates in our backyard, Latin America. It is important to understand how our adversaries operate in other AORs and how their global influence can have detrimental second and third-order effects. 

“I believe LEAP is the art of cultural competency. As one of the senior mentors for the LEAP Okinawa Chapter, I teach professional development sessions. My message resonates with Kadena Airmen, and they understand why we are stationed here and why China is America’s pacing threat. 

“I recently went on a Language Intensive Training Event to Panama City, Panama, for an advanced seminar emphasizing Chinese influence in Latin America. I capitalized on that opportunity and brought it back to Kadena to mentor my Intel Airman on what China is up to and why it is important to understand who they build relationships with and where. 

“LEAP has opened so many doors, especially in my career as an Intel Airman and personally. As a Senior Enlisted Leader, it has broadened my perspective and charged me to teach our Airman why strong alliances and interoperability are vital.  

“Overall, LEAP has exposed me to various countries and cultures in Latin America. I believe to truly master Spanish is an art, and you must not only speak and write well but be willing to learn about and honor the different cultures of each Spanish-speaking country. As the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Brown said, ‘Our next global threat may achieve parity, technologically, economically, or militarily, but the leading edge we have is each other, and that includes our allies and partners.’ 

“I would tell Airmen interested in LEAP to remind themselves that your language is a lethal asset, and only YOU can bring your skill to light. It is up to you to unleash that beast and be on the forefront of deterring China, Russia, and other threats. Then, you can proudly say you make collaboration with international allies and partners happen!”

-Spanish LEAP Scholar SMSgt Martha Meza

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