MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
The National Defense Strategy calls for the development of multi-capable Airmen who are postured for integration with allies and partners and equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to deploy Agile Combat Employment. The Air Force Culture and Language Center’s isolated immersion program is one tool used to answer that call.
Iso-immersions are two-week, intense intermediate-level programs within the United States where Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars share a residence and interact around the clock with their instructors. AFCLC created this isolated immersion course model to deliberately develop language and cultural expertise in the global mission for enhancing partnerships.
“The iso-immersion concept infuses regional themes and operational relevance to traditional language immersion programs. By adding lectures and discussions on issues such as great power competition, or specific operational domains, (i.e., cyber), the students gain a unique perspective on how those topics are either playing out in their regions, or how the people from that region view those issues. That makes these courses uniquely powerful,” AFCLC’s SOUTHCOM subject matter expert Dr. Dan Uribe said.
During these immersions, Scholars are in a real-world isolated environment where they live together and utilize their target language 100% of the time during their stay, including during excursions and outings. They discuss strategic topics related to integrated deterrence and complete excursions within the community related to the target language.
“The concepts and strategies designed for this course helped the Scholars understand the full impact of the Chinese and Russian influences on global missions and also further prepare the instructors to teach on these concepts moving forward,” AFCLC’s Language Intensive Training Event Program Manager Keith McCabe said.
French LEAP Scholar Master Sgt. Dolores Fisher, an instructor by trade, embraced her learning role as a student during the French language iso-immersion in 2022 to enhance her language and culture skills to help the USAF with initiatives in the AFRICOM region. After being a student during the two-week isolated immersion, she was able to bring back a different perspective to her students and inform them of the positive outcomes resulting from being a member of LEAP.
“During the course, the other LEAP Scholars and I were able to help each other grow because we all had different levels of knowledge of the language,” Fisher said. “We ate, slept, breathed, read, studied, wrote, cooked, and spoke in French. The course was intense and 24/7 for two weeks straight, but it was a great experience that helped us better understand the global mission and role of language and culture learning in the USAF; It also gave us the knowledge and confidence to discuss any topic in French.”
As travel restrictions from the pandemic have subsided, AFCLC has now begun in-country Area Studies Immersions outside of the United States. The first two in-country immersions for 2023 took place in Panama with nine Scholars and in Colombia with 10 Scholars.
Spanish LEAP Scholar Tech. Sgt. Ernesto Cruz Barquero, the NCOIC of the Plans and Programs office in the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, attended the recent Area Studies Immersion in Panama to get an in-depth understanding of the region, including its geopolitical, economic, and social state of affairs.
“In my daily activities, I work alongside international military students, air staff, and senior enlisted leaders from various partner nations consistently. However, being unfamiliar with the cultural, political, and economical situation of these partner nations can prove to create barriers when interacting with individuals from said nations,” Barquero explained. “I believe the presentations and discussions throughout this immersion provided a great deal of insight and differentiating perspectives of enduring challenges in Panamá, and within the AOR, for United States’ strategic objectives and the great power competition.”
Dr. Uribe assisted with delivering course education during both in-country Area Studies Immersions and highlights the program as a great way to prepare LEAP Scholars for establishing and strengthening partnerships.
“The depth of knowledge they are acquiring will allow them to tease out some of the more complex and nuanced cultural issues, which in turn will help them to make stronger connections,” he said. “This program is a great way to go beyond the ‘traditional immersion’ and provide our Airmen and Guardian with robust experiences and knowledge that I know will pay off in the future.”