HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
The United States Air Force Special Operations School, Defense Language Institute, and Air Force Culture and Language Center recently combined efforts to create an advanced course focused on preparing multi-capable Language Enabled Airmen Program (LEAP) scholars for Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.
Eight Airmen participated in the first Thai language LEAP-ACE class with USAFSOS at Hurlburt Field, Florida, in March 2023. This new course includes one week of study on cross-cultural communication and negotiation strategies led by USAFSOS. It’s followed by operationally focused advanced studies taught in the target language by native-level instructors from the Defense Language Institute Language Training Detachment.
“This course gives Airmen a better understanding of the operating environment, thus giving Airman the tools to create complex environments for adversaries,” said Mark Peters, Air Force Special Operation Command, Command/Component Language Regional Expertise and Culture. “This falls in line with CSAF’s priorities and AFSOC’s priorities to create more complex problems by increasing Airman’s access to multifaceted environments permitting integrated deterrence toward our adversaries.”
Course students enhanced fluency in various ACE-related topics, including the military necessity for intercultural competence, modern information warfare, negotiations for military effectiveness, and U.S. Embassy engagement. The course also strengthened their knowledge of area governments and Thai culture through discussion and instruction on region-specific topics.
Tech Sgt. Potchawan Shumake, Thai LEAP Scholar, said the program better prepares students to have the tools needed to support AFCLC’s training partnership requests and other ACE assignments.
“In the first week of the course, we learned how to operate in the field environment and integrate into any situation with partners and allies,” said Shumake. “We also learned about effectively operating in other cultures. For example, some cultures are not task driven like U.S. culture, so knowing how to effectively maneuver and communicate in those cultures is key to our integration.”
During the following two weeks the class gained in-depth insight into the Thai culture and language. This focus allowed LEAP ACE Airmen to go beyond just translating, into understanding and portraying military objectives in the Thai language. Airmen exercised cultural immersion scenarios by shopping and socializing at a Thai marketplace and visiting the Wat Mongkolratanaram Buddhist Temple both in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. The visit involved conversations and cultural lessons with the temple monks.
“My biggest takeaway from the course was the scenario training, which challenged us to think critically and quickly to apply the skills we’d learned to a role-play scenario,” said Shumake.
Ms. Sujitra Sullivan, Thai instructor from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, developed the course as a bridge for students to learn the military skills to apply in the target language to enhance their fluency.
“Preparing for this course was both an exciting and challenging time for me,” said Sullivan. “It started as an idea from the AFCLC about implementing ACE into the course content, so I interviewed Air Force personnel and watched videos from CSAF Gen. Brown on the importance of the Agile Combat Employment concept.”
Additional LEAP-ACE courses in other languages like Tagalog and Russian are planned throughout the remaining year at USAFSOS. The courses will develop a cadre of advanced language-enabled Airmen postured to utilize their skills and experiences in ACE-focused assignments. The successful implementation of LEAP-ACE Airmen will help enable the U.S. to defend and win in any conflict around the globe.