MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Language-enabled service members at Air Force and joint bases worldwide connect at their local bases through LEAP Chapters. For example, Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases, located in Nevada, have a combined LEAP Chapter led by Pashto Afghan LEAP Scholar 1st Lt. Skyler Sharp as president, Spanish LEAP Scholar 1st Lt. Sierra Rodriguez as vice president, and 2nd Lt. Rayne Jones as secretary.
The Nellis/Creech LEAP Chapter has five main areas of focus:
1. Network: Link LEAP and non-LEAP Scholars at the base level to develop cross-cultural competence and language abilities
2. Engage: Provide LEAP Scholars and fluent Airmen with opportunities to improve the skills of other members
3. Resource: Consolidate base members with language abilities to facilitate ad hoc operational and volunteer opportunities
4. Develop: Equip members with the tools and information they need to highlight their language abilities and interests to the United States Air Force
5. Sync: Offer local gatherings to meet, network, and share personal experiences as they relate to language and culture
This LEAP Chapter also prides itself on connecting service members and community members with language and cultural interests, even if they are not members of the Language Enabled Airman Program.
“Of our 105-member chapter, seven are LEAP Scholars,” Sharp explained. “We want to help bolster the applications for interested personnel and connect people who want to enhance their cultural competencies.”
To support language sustainment and enhancement, the LEAP Chapter also hosts several initiatives for members of the group throughout the year.
“We have 10 small groups in the chapter with shared-language abilities heading up mentoring sessions, study groups, and opportunity coordination,” Sharp said. “We are starting monthly gatherings to unite people and establish a frame of reference for what the chapter offers. In early 2023, we have one member preparing a brief of their experiences traveling to Taiwan and Japan.”
The chapter also emphasizes the importance of language skills and cultural competence as essential skillsets for multi-capable Airmen.
“Expanding awareness about how to highlight language skills and cross-cultural competencies is one of our pillars,” Sharp said. “Seventy-eight percent of our chapter members know a language, 10 percent know multiple languages, and two percent know four or more! However, 26 percent do not have DLPT scores, and 33 percent still need to take the DLAB.”
As the chapter encourages and enables more multi-lingual Airmen to document and recognize their skillsets, they are building a more culturally competent force to integrate with partners and allies as charged in the National Defense Strategy.
“The National Defense Strategy is clear: mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships are the greatest global strategic advantage. Cross-cultural competencies and empowerment of sustaining allied relationships through connection and support is one way of maintaining that advantage,” Sharp said. “It starts with small interactions that demonstrate compassion and bewilderment! LEAP is a critical vessel to channel those interactions into the right scenarios at the speed of relevance!”
The Nellis/Creech AFB LEAP Chapter believes the Air Force is enhancing its capabilities and developing the force needed to win in the high-end fight through LEAP.
“In a United States Air Force Academy commencement speech, the Honorable Jim Mattis said, ‘you cannot accept the Air Force the way it is. You must make it into your own image’,” Sharp said. “LEAP is helping to make the Air Force an incredible place. It is an incredible program and a noble and honorable effort by the AFCLC.”
A current list of active LEAP Chapters is available at https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/AFCLC/LEAP-Chapter-Directory/. If you are interested in starting a LEAP Chapter at your local base, contact the Air Force Culture and Language Center Outreach Division at firstname.lastname@example.org.