LEAP Scholars participate in first Area Studies Immersion in Sierra Leone Published June 1, 2023 By Navy Cmdr. Robert Liberato, Boston MEPS Commander AFCLC MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- With events happening around the world at a moment’s notice, service members must always be ready for the fight. Not unlike the skills built over time by a pilot; the culture, language, and regional expertise the total force needs for critical missions cannot be “just-in-time” trained. Through the Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP), more than 3,400 Airmen, are trained in one of 93 strategic languages. Serving as pilots, maintenance officers, finance journeymen and medics, these scholars develop and maintain their skills “at the ready” while serving in their primary career fields. Air Force Tech Sgt. Jude Baidoo, medical technician, Boston MEPS, is one of only 11 LEAP Scholars developed by the Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC) in the African language Krio. His career-spanning involvement in the highly selective program resulted in his participation in the program’s first-ever area studies immersion to the West African country of Sierra Leone in March 2023. "They not only improved on their Krio language ability, one of the other (potentially) major effects of running a course like this is forming a cohort within the USAF of African language speakers and those born and raised in the region,” said Dr. Scott Edmondson, associate professor of Regional and Cultural Studies-Africa at the AFCLC. “Put simply, such cohorts are the US military’s invaluable 'secret weapon' for strategic competition/integrated deterrence via strengthening alliances and partnerships. Their ability to build rapport—and quickly—with African partners is unmatched. Everywhere we went they impressed people. It also makes an impression about America that signifies global leadership." To carry the LEAP Special Experience Identifier, Airmen must endure consistent, active, and vigorous language and culture training and be ready to engage anywhere in the world when needed. These service members aren’t just finely tuned warriors, they are also lifelong learners who routinely consume language and culture education. A LEAP scholar’s skills are sharpened and honed over years of study and practice through one-on-one interactions and coursework. Baidoo recognizes the importance of this program, and its responsibility to help further partnerships with other nations and honor their cultures. “Having in-depth knowledge about people and their culture helps to integrate and assist them in various aspects of their daily lives,” Baidoo said. “It also improves US-African relations.” Originally sourced from DVIDS News.