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LEAP Spotlight: Capt. Briana Winslow

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  • By Capt. Briana Winslow, Modern Standard Arabic LEAP Scholar

I graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 2017, where I minored in both Arabic and Spanish. I commissioned as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer and have been stationed at Spangdahlem AB working with F-16s and at Ellsworth AFB working with B-1s. I’m currently stationed at JBSA-Lackland as an Inter-American Air Forces Academy instructor. I was recently selected to become a Foreign Area Officer, for which I will begin training next summer.  

I first began studying Spanish in 8th grade and studied the language throughout high school. When I arrived at the Air Force Academy, I was told to select a strategic language to study, so I picked Arabic due to my interest in the region. After freshman year, I decided to add Spanish to my schedule in addition to Arabic (partially to boost my grades, partially because of my interest in the Spanish-speaking world), and I continued to study both languages for the remainder of my time at USAFA.  

The Language Enabled Airman Program is well advertised at the Academy, especially for those involved in the Department of Foreign Languages. Since I’m not a heritage speaker, I wanted to pursue this opportunity to continue my language practice and maintain my skills. I applied my senior year and have been involved in LEAP ever since. 

I was selected in LEAP as a Modern Standard Arabic Scholar and have been fortunate to participate in Language Intensive Training Events at Maxwell AFB to learn from the Defense Language Institute and in Muscat, Oman. LEAP was gracious enough to support my participation in a virtual LITE for Spanish to brush up on my skills before starting my current job at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy. I’m excited to begin learning Levantine Arabic through LEAP in the near future! 

I’m an Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course instructor at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, so I use my language skills daily to teach students from Western Hemisphere partner nations. Though my LEAP language is Arabic, the wonderful AFCLC staff were very helpful in getting me into a refresher Spanish course before I started in this language-designated position. Additionally, the cross-cultural competency I have gained as a LEAP Scholar has been hugely beneficial in my exchanges with partner nation members worldwide. 

Not only have I met like-minded Airmen through LEAP, but I have also been given the opportunity to continue learning in a way compatible with my day-to-day military job. My language skills have opened some incredible doors for me since I commissioned, and I can’t imagine what the past six years would’ve looked like had I not been in LEAP and let those skills atrophy. 

Even with limited language skills, take the DLPT and apply for LEAP! This is meant to be a developmental program, so it’s okay if you aren’t fluent in your language. Also, be open to learning new things. I have several friends who are fluent in Spanish, but their LEAP language is Portuguese or Italian. LEAP is such a great opportunity to grow your skills and maybe even see the world and experience new cultures. 

I’ll find out in July what language I’ll be required to learn as a Foreign Area Officer, and I’m confident that LEAP will be there to support my language-learning needs in whatever that may be. 

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