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Language-enabled Airmen support Air War College Regional Security Studies worldwide

  • Published
  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

The Regional Security Studies program at Air War College is an integral part of the curriculum that prepares senior leaders to evaluate the political, military, economic, cultural, and security issues within a particular region.

As a hallmark of Air War College’s educational curriculum in the Department of International Security Studies, 15 RSS trips are conducted annually to educate the next generation of military leaders. AWC has leaned on support from the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Language Enabled Airman Program to help facilitate relationship-building and strategic connections during these trips.

“To understand the strategic environment, our senior military leaders who take part in these programs need to understand the background [of different regions and cultures] when they make foreign policy decisions,” said Dr. Anna Batta, Associate Professor of International Security Studies, Air War College. “They also need to understand global implications and how pieces fit together.”

In the past year, Air War College has taken RSS trips to several countries, including South America, the Philippines, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, and Egypt. LEAP Scholars accompanied AWC students and instructors to all official and social events, including visits with senior military and government officials, industry leaders, and cultural events to minimize language barriers.

“The partnership between LEAP and AWC RSS is brilliant. The AWC RSS provides a rare view of the governments and militaries in the region, and the LEAP member bridges linguistic and cultural boundaries,” Arabic LEAP Scholar Maj. Zachary Ziegler said.

Dr. Batta has worked with LEAP Scholars on several RSS trips and sees the partnership as an asset to enhance understanding for students and ensure they receive the best outcome from their experience as they take a deep dive into the region. 

“LEAP Scholars fill in the gaps the students lack in terms of understanding the cultural, political, and social environment of a region,” Dr. Batta said. “LEAP acts as a special glue for the RSS program that helps students remember the various aspects of individual regions.”

Col. Jimmy Hicks, United States Marine Corps, Instructor, Air War College, has also utilized LEAP Scholar support for RSS trips to bridge the language gap and help students gain a better understanding of regional security and international issues within the region.

“Our LEAP Scholar provided interpretation and context to high-level discussions between the host nation and AWC representatives,” he said. “In my opinion, the LEAP Scholar not only provided invaluable assistance but also personally learned and observed the culture in the countries we visited.”

These events were two-fold for LEAP Scholars; they enhanced the AWC attendees’ experience while gaining more insight into the region and enhancing their skillsets. Capt. Piara Swank, a Tagalog LEAP Scholar, supported 11 Air War College students and instructors traveling to the Philippines for an RSS trip.

“I gained valuable perspectives from both Americans and Filipinos with regards to the multitude of topics concerning US-Philippines relations,” she said. “This trip brought awareness of current events in the Philippines and increased my understanding of complex dynamics when it comes to pursuing U.S. interests in the region. As someone who is interested in pursuing an assignment in INDOPACOM, the lessons learned from this trip will be valuable in identifying key considerations when building relationships and doing business in the Philippines and interacting with Filipinos.”

Capt. Ketanny Alves, a Portuguese European LEAP Scholar, was able to provide real-time interpretation support in Angola during cultural excursions where the hosts did not speak any English.

“Since I was able to support them as a LEAP scholar, they were not hindered by the language and cultural barriers because I was there to translate and explain alongside the tour guides or business leaders,” she said. 

Alves also saw her support as a way to emphasize the U.S. commitment to understanding and cooperating with Angola as a strategic partner.

“The U.S. Defense Attaché and Senior Cooperation Chief emphasized the importance of U.S. military officials and scholars showing interest in Angolan businesses, history, and culture because it proves that the United States has a genuine interest in being a partner to Angola,” Alves explained. “The Air War College students’ travel to Angola verified that the United States recognizes Angola’s efforts to develop, modernize and compete at an international level. It is important that the United States continues its involvement and interest in their developing businesses to build a solid foundation and discourage Angola from partnering with our adversaries.”

Capt. Abraham Mambo also supported an AWC RSS trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and saw the trip as an opportunity to improve his language skills while providing instruction in the region. 

“For many in the group, it was their first time stepping on the continent of Africa. I was privileged to accompany this group and believe this LITE boosted my confidence as an Airman in how I interact with leaders. Additionally, as I aspire to become a military-diplomat, the interaction with the Chief of Mission in Kinshasa and her team gave me more insight on the U.S. mission and foreign policy in that country and in Africa in general,” he said.

As Air War College continues to modernize the learning environment to prepare future military leaders with the skills needed to engage with allies and partners, LEAP serves as a tool to help facilitate those strategic connections. 

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