MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
“My name is Lisa Shurling, and I have been in the Air Force for 12 years in the Material Management career field. I am currently stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, where I am the Maintenance Support Section Chief for the Logistics Readiness Squadron. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Management and am currently working on my Master of Science degree in Management and Leadership.
“My language journey began as a child while being raised by my parents, who were both immigrants in the United States and did not speak English at the time. I was born and brought up in New Jersey with a primarily Hispanic upbringing and spoke Spanish as my primary language, so I was in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes until I was in the 3rd grade. Since then, I have been working on developing both languages, English and Spanish, by taking courses and reading literature in both dialects.
“I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program in 2016 while stationed at the Holloman Air Force base. At this point, I had been in the Air Force long enough to know that there were other opportunities where I could excel outside my career field. That was when an officer in my squadron told me I qualified for LEAP because I spoke a second language. At first, I thought there was no way the Air Force needed me to speak Spanish, the most common language in the United States besides English. But I did some research anyway, applied for the program, and was accepted a couple of months later. What attracted me most about this program was that they acknowledged a commonly missed fact about being bi-lingual in the United States military: if you don’t speak your other language, you slowly start to lose it. The fact that the Air Force provided me the opportunity to help build back my language capabilities in Spanish was an offer I did not want to pass up.
“My most recent Language Intensive Training Event experience was in Bogota, Colombia. The biggest takeaway from this experience was the United States, Colombia, and the other countries in Latin America work well together and have for years; however, our bond as allies needs to be fortified, especially in the next coming years.
“We need to become better ‘neighbors,’ especially in the face of economic changes brewing in countries like China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, along with the threats we face to national security. I think this experience opened me up to view our world from a different perspective, which is how we, as the United States, are portrayed to the growing generations in Latin American countries. This is important because these will be the relationships we need to have on our side as the world continues to change in the coming years.
“As a LEAP Scholar, I am always learning something new. My job in the Air Force, though expansive in the sense of my position, is not quite as broadening as being exposed and adapting to different cultures, traditions, politics, governments, etc. I have traveled and met people from all over the world and taken several culture-specific courses that opened my eyes to things outside my immediate peripherals.
“The one thing I bring back to the mission is teaching my young Airmen the importance of being good humans. Because, after all, being a good human will make you a better Airmen, Guardian, supervisor, father, mother, daughter, neighbor, etc. After working and going to school in countries where poverty, hunger, violence, and corruption govern their lives, we need to remember to be grateful for the opportunities we all have in the United States and use those opportunities to do better, help those in need, take care of our environment, strengthen our relationships, and all the things that would make life on this planet worth living.
“LEAP has made my career in the Air Force more enjoyable and has been one of the factors that have kept me in the Force. The fact that the Air Force cares enough to provide the tools I need to maintain and further develop my second language is something I value and appreciate very deeply.
“I think sometimes we get in our heads and think, ‘we’re not good enough for this,’ or ‘why would I be selected’? I tell all my Airmen who speak a second language the worst thing that can happen if you apply is you don’t get selected that cycle, but if you never apply, you will 100% never get selected. LEAP has been such a blessing in my life, and I would love nothing more than to watch my Airmen grow and experience what I have since I became a LEAP Scholar.
- Spanish LEAP Scholar Master Sgt. Lisa Shurling