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Focus on Faculty: New AFCLC Professor initiates an immediate insightful impact

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  • By James Brown, AFCLC Outreach Team

If the German class that Dr. Jacob Lassin wanted to take at The College of William and Mary had not been full, his life might have taken a much different path. Instead, he enrolled in a Russian class which put him on a track that led to him recently becoming Assistant Professor of Regional and Cultural Studies (Russia) at the Air Force Culture and Language Center.  

“I found the Russian language really interesting,” Lassin said. “And then the faculty (at William and Mary) were great and very encouraging. 

That first Russian class motivated Lassin to spend a summer studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, while in college. After that was a year abroad studying in the Russian city of Ufa before earning his Ph.D. from Yale University in Slavic Literatures and Cultures in 2019.  

A scholarship requirement of a year of government service is what initially led Lassin to AFCLC. 

“I found this position that encapsulated both being able to do government service and continue as an academic, so it's just a perfect fit for me,” Lassin said. 

Lassin’s arrival was also well-timed for the AFCLC at a moment when America and its NATO Allies are renewing their focus on bolstering their collective resilience against shared threats from Russia, according to the National Security Strategy. 

The significance of the current climate of relations between the United States and Russia is not lost on Lassin. 

“It is humbling to be working here at such a critical moment in history, knowing that my work can have such a direct impact on the thinking of decision-makers,” he said. 

In his brief time here, Lassin has hit the ground running. 

‘I was able to teach my first GOPAC (General Officer Pre-deployment Acculturation Course),” Lassin said. “So being able to interact with general officers was a first for me. Teaching them, seeing what they really needed to know for their next assignments, and hopefully providing that for them, {made me} feel like I was part of this bigger project. I've only been part of AFCLC for a short amount of time, but it's very exciting to get on board and be able to start doing that.” 

The General Officers who attended the class praised Dr. Lassin’s approach to teaching the material. 

"I recently completed a two-day GOPAC course in preparation for my next OCONUS assignment and found it to be of extremely high value and a critical piece in my pre-deployment preparation,” said Brig. Gen. William “Clay” Freeman, Commandant, Air War College. “Dr. Lassin expertly tailored the course to meet the unique needs of my assignment and is a true subject matter expert in the region. I was so impressed with the course that I’ve reached out to other USAF senior leaders, Senior Leader Management Offices, and AFPC leadership, encouraging them to utilize this resource in preparation for upcoming assignments/deployments." 

Brig. Gen. Steven Behmer, who participated in the GOPAC course as well, also praised Lassin’s guidance. 

“On short notice, AFCLC put together a regionally specific course for my upcoming deployment,” he said. “Dr. Lassin knocked it out of the park! His passion and expertise for the region were greatly appreciated. I highly recommend this course for senior officers deploying to the region.” 

Successful interactions like this show that the AFCLC is a valuable resource to the military members it serves, according to Lassin. 

“I think what we provide are perspectives and information on different countries, both partner countries and adversary countries, that are not generally covered by traditional military training,” he said. “We're able to give a more holistic picture and really allow people to understand these countries in ways that they probably never even thought about because it wasn't part of their mission set or their job description. But this deeper knowledge is especially useful for long-term thinking and strategy regarding where U.S. military and foreign policy is going.” 

In the long term, Dr. Lassin hopes that he and his colleagues at AFCLC can have a lasting impact on the U.S. military.  

“I hope that my impact can be that people see myself and see us, as AFCLC faculty more generally, as really useful resources to keep coming back to,” he said. “I hope I'm able to show what we provide is very useful for U.S. service members when they're in the field. They either come back to us because they have continuing questions, they have other things they want to know about, or they tell their successors they should come to us. I hope it self-propagates so that we have impact and that people know you need to go to AFCLC to talk to them about cultural issues if you're going to be working in different areas of the world.”

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