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

LEAP Spotlight: Maj. Jessica Padoemthontaweekij

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jessica Padoemthontaweekij, Thai LEAP Scholar

I enlisted straight out of high school in 2006, went to Defense Language Institute, and graduated in 2008 as a Chinese Linguist. I commissioned through the Airmen Enlisted Commissioning Program and graduated with my Bachelor’s from the University of Hawaii in 2012. After commissioning, I worked as a Senior Intelligence Analyst for the Space and Missile Center, Los Angeles AFB. I was then assigned to the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron and the 4th Infantry Division as an ISR Liaison Officer. In 2019, I graduated with a Master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. After that, I was assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord AFB, WA, as the Deputy Chief of Wing Intelligence. In 2022, I was selected to attend the Royal Thai Air Force Air Command and Staff College in Bangkok, Thailand as the first United States Air Force female officer to attend the school. 

I was born in the U.S. but was raised in Thailand and Laos from one month to 8 years old. English is technically my third language. I’ve always been fascinated with languages as it illuminates the way of thinking in a particular culture, its history, and society. 

I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program through a colleague that was already accepted into the program. What interested me most about LEAP was the opportunity to improve your language skills through personalized online classes and Language Intensive Training Events. 

Being a LEAP Scholar has been a wonderful experience. I have been able to improve my languages (Lao, Thai, and Chinese) and have had unique opportunities, like a LITE to Lao, while simultaneously training to be an interpreter to support the USAF PACAF Air Chiefs Symposium. I was also able to support space missions with my language skills gained through LEAP. 

I have used the language training skills and resources gained through LEAP to help improve my Thai. Since I did not have the opportunity to attend language training courses like previous USAF students attending RTAF ACSC, having a LEAP background really helped me to improve my Thai on my own and be able to not only keep up with the course but also help other foreign students in class who are less fluent in Thai.

LEAP has opened opportunities that I would never have thought would be available. It has provided an avenue to connect with other language enthusiasts across diverse mission sets from around the world. 

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try the program. LEAP is a fantastic opportunity to improve your language skills, so do not be worried that your current language level is not high enough to apply for LEAP. Once accepted into the program, take any and every opportunity to challenge yourself—go for classes and lessons at levels that will challenge you and put you in an area outside of your comfort zone. 

I’ve always believed that opportunity favors the prepared; LEAP provides you with the means to be prepared and ready to take any opportunity that might come knocking at your door, especially when the opportunity comes unforeseen. 

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