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LEAP Spotlight: Maj. Kealey Patterson

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  • By Maj. Kealey Patterson, Russian LEAP Scholar

I studied Spanish in high school in Texas. While I found the Spanish culture and language interesting, I decided in college I wanted to study something different and a little more unusual than my Texas upbringing had shown me. When I realized engineering was not for me and truly chased my passion to learn more about other cultures, I changed my degree to Russian Language and Area Studies. I chose Russian because of its uniqueness combined with my interest in European History. Additionally, with conflict continuing in the Middle East and my desire to become an Air Force Intelligence Officer, I thought that not only should I understand the Russian culture but should get a good grasp on the Arabic culture as well.

I graduated from Texas Tech University in 2012, where I majored in Russian Language and Area Studies and minored in Arabic. I commissioned as an Intelligence Officer. I was first stationed at Scott Air Force Base, IL, then went on to work at the 611th Air Operations Center at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska. I am currently stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base working as the Deputy Division Chief for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Requirements at Air Force Global Strike Command. 

I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program during my senior year of college, shortly after the program had begun. I applied but was not accepted into the program at the time. I spent the next few years focusing on my job; however, I had heard coworkers talk about LEAP, and I decided it would be beneficial to advance my language skills. Also, LEAP interested me because I wanted to improve my cultural understanding and allow for potentially great opportunities to see another part of the military. I tried again and was accepted.

Thus far, I have had the opportunity to attend two Language Intensive Training Events, one in Montana and one in Maryland. I have also had the opportunity to attend two eMentor sessions. While I am still in the developmental phase of my language learning abilities, I have been able to improve my DLPT scores through these training events. What I love the most out of each LEAP experience I have had is getting to better understand the Russian culture. My instructor in Maryland grew up in the Soviet Union, and I found it fascinating to not only hear about her time there but also her thoughts on the current environment in Russia. While in Montana, my instructor taught me about the differing cultures of the former Soviet Union countries.  

As an intelligence officer, understanding Russian culture and language is extremely beneficial. It gives me knowledge as to the “why” behind Russia’s actions. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Barksdale LEAP Chapter as the LEAP Mentorship Committee Chair. Through this position, I have been able to meet many LEAP applicants and learn about their diverse backgrounds and cultures. From what I have learned through my LEAP training, I have helped potential LEAP Scholars and provided members across the base with language and culture tools. I have provided them various language training websites and applications, introduced them to the AFCLC Culture Guide app, reviewed LEAP applicant submissions, and answered any questions applicants have on the process.  

LEAP has made me more culturally aware, enabling me to be more open and understanding of the diverse Airmen I have been able to work with. LEAP has also allowed me to enhance my professional skills through advancing my knowledge and understanding of Russian language and culture. As we operate in a strategic environment across the world, it is necessary to understand our adversaries to better support our partners and allies in matters that are important to all of us and effect world stability.  

For anyone interested in LEAP, if you don’t make it the first time into the program, keep trying. LEAP is an amazing program with great resources on how to develop your language and cultural skills. 

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