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Language enabled Airmen support inaugural Vietnam senior leader course

  • Published
  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

The National Defense Strategy identifies the Indo-Pacific as the priority theater for the United States Air Force to invest time, energy, and resources into building alliances and strengthening partnerships for integrated deterrence. To demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, the 36th Contingency Response Group recently held its first Senior Leaders Orientation Course for the Vietnam Air Defense Air Force with language support from five Scholars in the Language Enabled Airman Program.

This course provided introductory sessions on pilot training, covering operations, maintenance and logistics, safety, aerospace medicine, and security, fulfilling the U.S.’s first line of effort in the Indo-Pacific Strategy to drive new resources to the Indo-Pacific. The training will allow the ADAF to integrate its first U.S. flying platform into their pilot training program, leading to follow-on mobile training for pilots and aircraft maintainers. 

According to Lt. Col. Kevin Tran, the Vietnam Country Director at Pacific Air Forces, LEAP Scholars played a critical role in translating and interpreting course material and were the direct link between U.S. personnel and the Vietnamese delegation.

“Without the LEAP Scholars, the engagements with our allies and partners would not be as successful and enduring,” Tran said. “In Asian culture, relationship building is vital before we can build trust. For Vietnam, trust is key to relationship building, especially with our shared history. The LEAP Scholars helped advance our engagements with more open and fruitful discussions.”

All 19 Vietnamese participants were visiting Guam for the first time during this course. LEAP Scholars served as ambassadors and assisted delegation members both inside and outside the classroom, leaving a lasting image of U.S. hospitality to open doors to further U.S. engagement with Vietnam.

After classroom hours, LEAP Scholars continued to connect with the ADAF leadership to further facilitate and strengthen relationships. Maj. James To, one of the Vietnamese LEAP Scholars who supported the course, was commended for his knowledge, expertise, and willingness to go the extra mile to connect.

“This is the way social networking and relationships (the guanxi concept) are formed in Confucian-based cultures. Working relationships don’t end at the close of business; they continue beyond the office. Some of the senior ADAF officers commended my efforts in connecting with them on a personal level outside of the classroom. Because of this, I became a conduit for all their concerns, inquiries, and needs. I believe I left a good impression of USAF’s professionalism, hospitality, and willingness to advance our relationship with the ADAF,” he explained.

Integrating the language, regional expertise, and culture skills of LEAP Scholars into partner missions like this course helps the U.S. prioritize our single greatest asymmetric strength: our network of security alliances and partnerships.

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