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

LEAP Spotlight: Staff Sgt. Yelyzaveta Schierer

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Yelyzaveta Schierer, Serbian Croatian LEAP Scholar

I was accepted into the Language Enabled Airman Program in 2022 as a Serbian-Croatian scholar. I was surprised since I did not speak this language and only took the DLPT test for fun. Still, LEAP identified my potential and gave me a great opportunity to develop myself and learn this new language. 

In September 2023, I went to Croatia on a three-week Language Intensive Training Event and learned a lot about Croatian culture while significantly improving my language skills. I had intensive language classes at the Zagreb Croatian Language Academy five days a week. On the weekends, I toured the best sights in Croatia. I visited several places, saw many castles, and had the opportunity to tour the infamous Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List. After returning, I took the DLPT and improved my scores from 1/1 to 2/2, which was a great achievement for me. This significant jump in my scores is a testament to LEAP’s effectiveness. 

Language learning has been a lifelong passion of mine. I was born and raised in a bilingual environment, where I mastered Russian and Ukrainian languages. Later, I acquired English as a foreign language and became fluent in it. Recently, I embarked on a new challenge of learning Serbo-Croatian, a language that fascinates me with its rich history and culture.

A friend introduced me to the Language Enabled Airman Program, and I was intrigued by what it offered. What appeals to me most is the chance to broaden my linguistic horizons and enhance my existing abilities. The program provides me with the opportunity not only to learn new languages but also to deepen my knowledge and proficiency in the ones I already speak. This will benefit me personally and professionally, as I can communicate more effectively and confidently with diverse audiences and cultures.

In 2020, I joined the LEAP Chapter in Okinawa, which was the second chapter in PACAF and the eighth in the Air Force at that time. I served as the chapter committee lead and organized multiple language training symposiums where I provided Russian and Ukrainian language support to the 18th Wing and various associate units. I also hosted professional development language training, where I taught members about the DLPT process and how to improve their language testing skills. We have monthly meetings to recruit new members and educate them on LEAP and its opportunities, including the application process. Thanks to our efforts, Kadena Air Base had the highest number of LEAP selectees in 2022. In 2023, our chapter was named by AFCLC director Mr. Ward as one of “the Golden Standard Chapters”.

LEAP has also given me a chance to support the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis by deploying me to establish communication between NATO leadership and Ukrainian forces as a Training Partnership Request. 

Language is a means of communication and a reflection of culture, identity, and history. Therefore, no language is irrelevant or insignificant, even if it seems to have a limited scope or popularity. I can attest to this from my personal experience. Before 2022, Ukrainian was a language often overlooked by the international community. However, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which sparked a war that has lasted for almost two years, Ukrainian became a very sought-after language. This shows how language can become a vital asset and a powerful tool in times of crisis and change.

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