AFCLC, Air Force Culture and Language Center, Air Force's Global Classroom

LEAP Spotlight: Capt Eric Bentum

  • Published
  • By Capt. Eric Bentum, Air Command and Staff College, Krio LEAP Scholar

I was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa, and moved to the United States through the diversity visa program. Upon commissioning in 2016, I joined the United States Air Force and have held various assignments in the Personnel career field at the base and Intermediate headquarters levels. I also deployed to Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2021.

Being raised in Ghana, an integral part of my daily life was woven with culture and language. While English is the official language, there are more than 80 languages being spoken in Ghana, and that was my early exposure to the different ethnic groups, cultures, and associated languages.

This diversity in language and culture increased my desire and quest to learn about different cultures and develop a keen interest in languages. Whether writing to pen-pals overseas or attending the annual Pan-African Festival (PANAFEST) and the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC) as a child, I always wanted to immerse myself not only in the different cultures and languages around me locally, but also that of the diaspora and the world at large.

Upon my PCS to Minot Air Force Base, ND, I met a Ghanaian staff sergeant in the fitness center who later spoke to me and a couple of others about Krio being a language that the Air Force is targeting and developing as an emerging language. As someone who has the flair for languages, I took the OPI for Krio and later applied for the Language Enabled Airman Program per a recommendation from a mentor of mine since my language, cultural and regional expertise was a skillset that would go a long way to support the USAF’s mission.


I just returned from a Language Intensive Training Event in Sierra Leone as part of the Krio LEAP Scholars. With the goal of deliberate development as regional experts in Sub-Saharan Africa, I was hand-selected as part of the LEAP team to Sierra Leone for a strategic deterrence and Global Power Competition pilot course where we interfaced with various SMEs on China’s influence in Sierra Leone, post-colonial Russian influence and United States-Sierra Leone relations. We were also afforded the opportunity to interact with the local population to get a better understanding and appreciation of the culture. Our collective proficiency in Krio and keen knowledge of Sierra Leone and West Africa have led to the creation of the pioneer Krio curriculum for future Air Force LEAP scholars.

I also had the privilege of participating in the 2021 Air Force Culture and Language Center’s LREC symposium as an Air Force language scholar to hone my cross-cultural competence while networking with more than 300 members to execute Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s priority in the Agile Combat Employment construct and America’s foreign policy in general. There isn’t any forum I know of that can rival such a convocation of language, cultural and regional experts.

In addition, I recently had the opportunity to brush up on my French language through AFCLC’s partnership with the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, and I’ve seen marked improvement in my speaking and reading abilities. I certainly look forward to more opportunities of such nature and to also being able to utilize the skills I’ve acquired for the betterment of my unit and the Air Force.

Currently, I am assigned to Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, as the Deputy Director of Education Support at Air Command and Staff College, leading the command support and admin staff in providing exceptional Personnel and Administrative services to the faculty as well as the in-resident students. Due to the LEAP exposure and cross-cultural competence, I’m able to better understand, interact and provide service to the different composition of the faculty, in-residence students (to include sister-services and varying demographic backgrounds), and the international coalition partners we have the privilege of partnering with to better project airpower and maintain America’s competitive advantage on the global stage.

I look at LEAP like an honor society for language scholars in the Air Force because it brings together language proficient, culturally competent, and like-minded Air Force members and affords them a broader opportunity to serve the United States in unique and diverse ways their regular career fields do not provide. I’d highly recommend LEAP to any Airman looking to develop their language and cultural portfolio while serving in the Air Force. 

One of the best decisions I could ever make in my military career was joining LEAP. Two thumbs up to the Air Force Culture and Language Center for such a phenomenal opportunity, and I can only hope that the program gets better with every passing year.

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