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

LEAP Spotlight: 2d Lt. Inkoo Kang

  • Published
  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

“I am currently a 14N Intelligence Officer stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy. I graduated from the University of Southern California in 2020. I grew up in Kansas City, but I was born in South Korea.

“My language journey began as soon as I moved to the United States at four years old because I had to learn to speak a new language. I lived in Buffalo, New York, for about four years before moving to Kansas City, which I now consider my home. 

“Although I was born in South Korea, my language in the Language Enabled Airman Program is French. My journey began with French in high school. I was always interested in international relations and politics, and I heard as a kid that French was the language of diplomacy, so I decided to give French a shot. I studied French all through high school and some of college, and I even ended up going to France for six weeks in college for a program. 

“When I was in high school, it was difficult to master French; I was never the best student, but I always enjoyed learning languages. Then, slowly but surely, it clicked in college. I began to understand, comprehend, and vocalize the material.

“I found out about LEAP as a cadet from a captain who was part of the program and explained it to me. Also, my old commander, Lt. Col. Reid Wynans (Ret.), had taken the DLPT for Spanish and got to go overseas to utilize his language skills. That’s when I knew I needed to look into LEAP.

“I found out I could apply for LEAP as a cadet, so I took the DLPT, applied, and was accepted. I took my first eMentor during COVID. I had graduated and commissioned at that point and didn’t have many things to do, so I was fully focused on my eMentors. I had done a full eMentor before going active-duty.

“I recently also did my first Language Intensive Training Event. It was an incredible experience that dramatically increased my vocabulary, listening and speaking skills. When I first took the DLPT, I scored a 2/2 on reading and listening. After eMentors, I brought the reading to a 2+, but my listening had digressed to a 1+. Going into the LITE, I had a 2+/1+. I retook my DLPT after the LITE, and my listening had increased from a 1+ to a 3. 

“My host family, the Laclauses, were amazing as well. I had great French teachers who were hospitable and made it a wonderful experience. Every day, they had lessons and real-world experiences to help me enhance my language skills. They also took me from France to Spain during my time there to show me the enclaves of French and Basque-speaking people in Northern Spain. This was my first time going to Spain, so immersing myself in a culture I didn’t know existed while learning more about a culture I’d studied for a long time was more enriching than I expected. 

“At Aviano, we support operations in Europe and Africa, so I imagine there will be many opportunities in the future where my language skills will be pertinent and an asset to the mission. We also work closely with coalition partners in NATO, and French is an official language of NATO, so it’s a great tool that I can contribute to the overall mission here.

“I firmly believe that one of the contributing factors to being sent to Aviano right out of technical school was my documented experience through LEAP with a language skill pertinent to the area of interest. Italy shares a border with France and French-speaking nations in close proximity. 

“LEAP also allowed me to gain an understanding of how the military values languages and how you don’t have to be a linguist in the military to contribute language skills. In my case, I am an intelligence officer whose primary job is to provide intelligence to our unit, but the Air Force pays me a proficiency bonus each month to maintain my French language skills.

“I would encourage other Airmen interested in LEAP to take the DLPT. It documents that you know or can comprehend a specific language. Even if you don’t apply for LEAP immediately, taking the DLPT will allow you to get a measure of where you stand. 

“I also recommend talking to service members who are currently in LEAP. It can be difficult to navigate the processes necessary to start e-mentors, LITEs, and gain the necessary experiences to get paid. For example, I received my first LITE because I talked to other LEAP Scholars at Aviano and asked how they got their LITES, and they gave me advice. 

“I express my sincere thanks to the Language Development Coordinators who coordinate the LEAP training, my leadership at Aviano for allowing me to participate in this program, and the host family from my LITE, the Laclauses. I still talk to them and shared my updated DLPT scores with them. We even watched many French World Cup games together virtually.”

-French LEAP Scholar 2d Lt. Inkoo Kang

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