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LEAP Scholars participate in Argentina Advanced Special Emphasis Course

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  • By Lori Quiller, AFCLC Outreach Team

The Air Force Culture and Language Center’s U.S. Southern Command expert, Dr. Daniel Uribe, recently served as a guide for seven Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars who participated in an Advanced Special Emphasis Course in Argentina. This ASE course is one of AFCLC’s many training tactics that’s getting results.

According to Uribe, this Language Intensive Training Event, or LITE, allowed the LEAP Scholars to expand their knowledge of the SOUTHCOM region and learn how the region is preparing for strategic competition in the future.

“Our LEAP Scholars are learning to cultivate strategic relationships,” Uribe said. “One never really knows how a relationship can pay off in the future. It can be in an engagement like this LITE in Argentina, or it can be in an operational engagement. It’s critically important that we nurture our relationships and spend time in them because you never know how or when they can pay off.”

While SOUTHCOM is this year celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Human Rights Initiative of working with allies and partners to improve security, advance democratic ideals, and promote peace and prosperity in the region, it is also taking “the full weight of integrated deterrence, leveraging the whole of government, industry, private sector, and academia,” to reinforce security at home, according to SOUTHCOM Commander Gen. Laura J. Richardson in her address before the 118th Congressional House Armed Services Committee on March 8, 2023.

“The 2022 National Security Strategy states, in no uncertain terms, that ‘autocrats are working overtime to undermine democracy.’” Richardson said in her address. “Our adversaries use a multidisciplinary and multidomain approach to counter democracy, and SOUTHCOM, our allies, and partners must use the full weight of integrated deterrence, leveraging the whole of government, industry, private sector, and academia, to effectively respond. With shared purpose and mutual trust, we must collectively act with a much greater sense of urgency to ensure this hemisphere remains a stronghold for democracy.”

AFCLC designed the Advanced Special Emphasis Courses to be multidisciplinary for its LEAP Scholars. For the first two weeks of the LITE, the Scholars focused on intensive language instruction and studying Argentina from a political and military perspective. They chose research topics to investigate during their time in the country and are expected to share what they learned with others when they return to their home bases. Uribe joined the group for the third week to assist as a guide and with embassy relations and military operations.

“Getting to interact with the Argentine military was a huge plus and provided perspective in understanding their operations. It also helped me understand their relationship with their government and how this affects interactions with other countries in Latin America and the world. Knowledge about Argentina as a country will be helpful if I one day work with their military in any capacity. In a broader sense, I’ll better understand the Latin American region and be more capable of interacting with officials and reaching solutions to issues,” said LITE participant and LEAP Scholar Capt. Karla Cruz, 3rd Operations Support Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

MSgt. Luis Roa, a LEAP Scholar from the 52nd Operations Support Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, described the Argentina ASE Course as among the top three of his professional experiences.

“During this LITE, I visited the U.S. Embassy in Argentina and integrated with some Argentine Air Force members. My time with the Argentine military was awesome! We toured one of their bases and saw where they worked and how they operated. We spoke with the Argentinian Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and Chief of Staff, who discussed their successes and challenges in the Air Force. I was not expecting the level of access we had been given with the U.S. Embassy and the Argentine military. It was incredibly informative and eye-opening.”

For SSgt. Humberto Stripling, 319th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Grand Forks Air Force Base, the opportunity to learn more about the SOUTHCOM AOR came with a bonus.

“We learned so much about Argentina that I want to share my experience and what I learned with my peers. Planting little seeds of wisdom is all it takes to awaken people’s interest in learning,” Stripling said. “I also improved my Spanish academic level as my DLPT scores increased. I am so grateful to be part of LEAP and look forward to continuing learning and teaching others the importance of the program.”

Uribe said the Advanced Special Emphasis Course model works. “Our LEAP Scholars not only improved their language skills but also gained incredible insights into the culture and current issues of a key ally in the SOUTHCOM AOR.”  

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