MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
“I am currently a third-year AFIT CI, Political Science Ph.D. student at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. My major field of study is International Relations, with a minor in Political Theory. Before being accepted into the advanced academic degree program, I served as an Air Advisor in the United Arab Emirates for two years. I was accepted into the Language Enabled Airman Program in 2022.
"My language learning journey, and appreciation of other cultures, started early as a child in a military family. Growing up, my family and I moved between England, Germany, and Japan. We finally settled down in the U.S. when I started eighth grade.
“Living on military bases meant that I primarily attended DoD schools. DoD schools offered basic language classes, which emphasized cultural competence. These courses introduced students to the basics of communication and helped military kids better understand their new environment. Those classes also piqued my interest in other cultures.
“I graduated from Colorado State University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Liberal Arts. In college, my studies concentrated on the Middle East and North Africa. I took three years of French, which included a study abroad to Aix-en-Provence for a month. I commissioned in 2014 as an Air Battle Manager. I served six years in that field as an Air Weapons Officer in the United States and overseas deployed locations.
“During my assignment in the United Arab Emirates, I made a good friend who spoke Dutch. At first, I learned a few words for fun, but then I considered that Dutch is spoken by a handful of partner nations in SOUTHCOM and EUCOM, where my career field frequently operates.
“Then COVID struck, and learning Dutch became a serious endeavor.
“When I started learning Dutch, it was for the purpose of building better relationships with and cultivating a deeper understanding of our foreign partners. From my previous experience learning a language, I knew I needed help to maintain consistency. That’s why I applied to LEAP. LEAP has given me the resources to advance my Dutch proficiency and reinforced my commitment to learning Dutch. LEAP provides opportunities and accountability to stay on top of my language goals. It also has shown me how much value the Air Force places on cultural competency and language proficiency.
“Within the past year, I have completed two eMentors and one Language Intensive Training Event.
“I went to Geldermalsen, the Netherlands, for three weeks for my LITE. I was matched with an exceptional instructor with more than 40 years of experience. Living in a small town allowed me to use the language in daily interactions and better understand life in the Netherlands. The immersive experience is unparalleled. I left the Netherlands with greater cultural awareness and confidence in my communication skills.
“LEAP has prepared me for future Air Force utilization, working with NATO partners such as Belgium and the Netherlands and partners in SOUTHCOM.
"In closing, I would like to extend a BIG THANK YOU to the AFCLC staff, LEAP e-mentors, and everyone who has made this program possible.
“Met vriendelijke groeten (best regards)!”
-Dutch LEAP Scholar Capt. Cara Fitzgerald