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

AFCLC Spotlight: Sarah McKay

  • Published
  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

The Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Culture Guide app provides cross-cultural education to the Department of Defense through a comprehensive list of Expeditionary Culture Field Guides for more than 80 countries. Sarah McKay is one of the team members who works behind the scenes to bring these guides to life.

McKay serves as the content administrator for AFCLC to build and maintain the current inventory of ECFGs online and through the Culture Guide app. Twice annually, McKay reviews each guide in its entirety and updates statistics, cultural, and geo-political information relevant to that country and region. In addition to the content updates, she also updates formatting, imagery, resources, and map markers. In the event of a natural disaster, unexpected change in leadership, or conflict, she and her team make off-cycle updates. 

“My role is one of many that comprises the ‘Air Force’s Global Classroom’ and helps to accomplish our overall mission to enhance partner interoperability and adversary understanding through multi-faceted education,” McKay explained. “Our Field Guides provide not only our Airmen and military personnel but also the civilian population with the foundational knowledge necessary to understand the 12 Domains of Culture of a specific region and country. Since we have expanded the capabilities of the Culture Guide app, our Field Guides can be used with other courses and videos to better educate and develop stronger cross-cultural competence.”

As McKay’s role requires meticulous attention to detail, focus, and time, she was AFCLC’s first fully remote team member. Remote work has successfully allowed her to increase her productivity without the distractions and interruptions that might be present in a shared-office environment.

“I appreciate the ability to work in a quiet environment as I work with data and often must rewrite sections of our guides.  I find the quiet helps me focus, and I feel I can produce a better-quality update. Remote work also allows me to work when I am most productive. I’m an early riser, so I appreciate the ability to start my day early without having to commute first,” she said.

As an avid reader and learner, McKay’s favorite part of her position is the opportunity to read and learn as she transforms cultural data into a digestible format to help AFCLC’s consumers expand their knowledge.

“Our ECFG inventory has nearly tripled since I’ve been working with the AFCLC. We now have more than 80 Field Guides covering five COCOMs. Each year, the ECFG development team is tasked with producing 5-7 new ECFGs.  As we increase our ECFG inventory, we also increase our video and course offerings on the app – thus increasing the educational opportunities available to our Airmen and the public,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges in her role is locating reputable and current statistics for countries without a strong data collection system or countries that utilize propaganda and misinformation instead of factual, verifiable information. 

Despite this challenge, McKay sees the value her work brings to AFCLC, the Department of the Air Force, and the DOD at large.

“I’m proud when the teams receive positive feedback on the ECFGs and Field Guide app from organizations and users outside the AFCLC.  I’m also gratified to know our content is deemed a reputable educational tool and is utilized by other government entities, NGOs, and the civilian population. The ECFG Development and App Development teams are exceptionally talented, and I’m proud to be associated with them,” McKay said.

AFCLC emblem. Air Force Culture and Language Center. Air Force's Global Classroom.

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