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LITE U Prepares LEAP Scholars for Global Challenges

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  • By AFCLC Outreach Team

The Department of the Air Force’s priority to modernize the learning environment involves developing innovative educational methods to increase Airmen’s knowledge, capabilities, and skills.

The Air Force Culture and Language Center’s Language Intensive Training Event University (LITE U) model addresses this priority through courses tailored to prepare Airmen to speak to U.S. national security challenges in their target languages, guided by expert instruction from foreign language department instructors at various universities across the nation.

“The LITE U program is designed to enhance LEAP Scholars’ knowledge of global and regional issues through study, research, and discussion in their target languages,” AFCLC’s LITE Program Manager Keith McCabe said. “Intermediate- and advanced-level proficiency Scholars enhance their language skills, for utilization in culturally complex environments.”

LITE U courses are based on an instructional model developed by the Defense Language National Security Education Office, or DLNSEO, in response to Section 529 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which called for the development of language proficiency training programs at “institutions of higher education concerned in critical and strategic languages tailored to meet operational readiness requirements.”

“AFCLC partnered with DLNSEO to adapt this course model to current learning needs,” AFCLC’s Language Division Chief Christopher Chesser said. “DLNSEO and the contracted universities were instrumental in tailoring the curriculum to the needs of the LEAP scholar, to include incorporating Chinese Communist Party and Russian Federation influence topics as well as a requirement for a student capstone presentation, testing each student’s topic fluency in their target language.”

Through this model, AFCLC utilized four universities across the U.S. with existing language programs – the University of Montana, San Diego State University, The University of Utah, and Indiana University. LEAP Scholars attend six hours of foreign language instruction per day for four weeks. Course graduates receive six hours of undergraduate credit.

The instruction includes real-life cultural situations to help LEAP Scholars learn about the language and culture of a specific region. Understanding these essential cultural aspects and local issues, they can enhance their language skills in listening, reading, speaking, and writing.

LEAP Operations Officer Capt. Alexander Nastas, who is also a Russian- and Romanian-speaking LEAP Scholar, recently participated in an advanced Russian LITE U program at Indiana University. He took the course with four other Russian LEAP Scholars, allowing him to practice language skills beyond the classroom.

“We had the opportunity to discuss the Chinese Belt and Road initiative in our target language, as well as critical terms focused on military jargon and Russian culture,” Nastas explained. “It helps to have a great instructor and classmates to facilitate discussions in the target language and utilize those terms.”

The course helped Nastas and his classmates increase their confidence in technical terminology to engage in strategic conversations, which they could take back to their duty stations as an asset to their current AFSCs.

“This LITE has helped mature the understanding of world events and adversaries which have a huge impact on U.S. foreign policy,” Nastas said. “With some of my classmates being part of the Intel community and others working for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, this training will prove to be extremely necessary.”

To date, 241 Airmen, 14 Guardians, and one Soldier have completed LITE U courses, including 17 Foreign Area Officers, Regular Air Force and Reserve. Languages included Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, French, Korean, Persian-Farsi, Portuguese Brazilian, Russian, and Spanish. AFCLC is working with academic partners to deliver 10 additional courses for FY24.

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