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LEAP Spotlight: Maj. Joanne Whitlock

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  • By Maj. Joanne Whitlock, Tagalog LEAP Scholar

I’m an AFROTC Instructor at California State University - San Bernardino in southern California. I am a Logistics Readiness Officer by trade and was previously the Operations Officer for the 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, SC. I have also held Logistics Readiness Officer positions with the AFCENT Air Warfare Center in Abu Dhabi, Joint Base Andrews, and Peterson Space Force Base. Before commissioning in the Air Force, I was a forensic investigator in Northern Virginia, which is what my master’s degree is in (Forensic Science).

I’m a proud Filipino American. I was born and raised in the Philippines before moving to the United States when I was 12, so I’m a native Tagalog speaker. I have always loved studying languages, and my appreciation for other cultures has been part of me since I was young. I have a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, and during college, I took courses on World Religions, Cultural Anthropology, etc. I have been deployed overseas to Africa and the United Arab Emirates, where I collaborated and interacted with the local populations. I am fascinated with the world and its multitude of cultures and people.

I first heard of the Language Enabled Airman Program as a young officer but only recently applied. I’m thankful for being selected the first time around. I have always said that my Filipino heritage is “who” I am, and my American patriotism is my “why.” I saw LEAP as the perfect opportunity to bridge the two by utilizing my language skills to help strengthen the alliance between the United States and the Philippines. I was also interested in leveraging LEAP to enhance my language skills continuously and consistently. 

Since being selected for LEAP in the past year, I have completed an eMentor and a Language Intensive Training Event, or LITE. During my eMentor, I had private one-on-one sessions with my instructor, who was diligent and motivating. It was some of the best training I’ve ever received. My instructor, Jeanette Teague, was personally invested in advancing my language skills. After my eMentor, my DLPT scores improved on all components!

I went to Manila, Philippines, for two weeks with nine fellow advanced Tagalog LEAP Scholars for my LITE. We participated in a Philippines Agile Combat Employment Immersion program designed to prepare advanced language proficiency LEAP Scholars for ACE-focused assignments. The program placed special emphasis on cross-cultural communication and negotiation strategies. The LITE included Tagalog language and cultural studies, area excursions, research projects, technical vocabulary, and role-playing scenarios focused on ACE, interoperability, and adversary understanding. My fellow Filipino-American LEAP Scholars and I truly bonded in our love for our native country and the United States during this amazing opportunity!

LEAP has given me the opportunity to be closer to my heritage and language while representing the Air Force. It doesn’t get better than that. Through LEAP, I have cultivated an even deeper understanding and appreciation for the socio-politico-economic intricacies of my region. The program has given me additional purpose and prepared me for future opportunities in the INDOPACOM theater while also connecting me with other Tagalog speakers I can learn from and collaborate with. Because of LEAP, I am much more deliberate in constantly amplifying my language skills - I watch Filipino dramas now!

I encourage any Airmen interested in LEAP to apply.  More than ever, the Air Force values cultural competency and language proficiency. With our ever-changing mission sets, be a part of this incredible program! Salamat AFCLC at LEAP para sa mga pagkakataong ito. (Thank you, AFCLC and LEAP, for these opportunities).

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