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

Three amigos follow through on training transformation during intensive instruction in Chile

  • Published
  • By James Brown

Three Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) Scholars recently strengthened their language and culture skills and forged new friendships as they participated in a month-long intensive course of Spanish instruction at the Escuela Bellavista school in Santiago, Chile. The course, which demonstrates the Air Force Culture and Language Center following through on training transformation, enabled them to learn and apply their Spanish skills more effectively as Non-Commission Officers in the U.S. Air Force.

Staff Sgt. Andrea Arango Arroyave, Staff Sgt. Aiko Little, and Staff Sgt. Kyle Powell participated in this Language Intensive Training Event (LITE), which ran from February 17, 2024, to March 16, 2024. The course was designed to enhance the students’ proficiency in the Spanish language and deepen their understanding of Chilean culture and communication, which helps develop Airmen who are mission-ready in that region.

“This LITE program centered on Spanish language education, delving into grammar, speech, colloquial language, and expression, tailored specifically for learners interested in enhancing their linguistic skills within Chilean culture and communication,” said Powell.

The course was demanding and informative, according to Arroyave.

This LITE was very academically challenging,” she said. “Although I am a native speaker and attended a Colombian school, there were a lot of grammatical areas in which I was not proficient and was not aware of. My whole life, I had been saying certain words wrong or lacked the ability to properly put sentences together to sound more professional.”

The LITE didn’t just cover language; it also offered an opportunity for cultural education.

“Culturally, this LITE was very eye-opening,” said Arroyave. “Chileans are very different in their history and practices compared to other Hispanic countries. I had an amazing time visiting museums and historical places with my teachers and tasting the very European-influenced cuisine they have in country. I also learned that you may be a pro at Spanish, but as soon as you get to another Hispanic country, they have a different word for everything you “think” is called that way. For example, “straw,” “trash can,” and “some fruits and vegetables” are different in many Hispanic countries and many other words.”

Powell and Little agreed that the cultural aspect of this LITE was astounding.

“The primary benefit of participating in this LITE was the rich cultural exchange and the chance to delve into Chilean history and traditions,” said Powell. “On a personal level, it was profoundly rewarding as well. One memorable experience was the opportunity to share moments and distribute donations with individuals from an elder home, an experience that was both humbling and deeply inspiring for me.”

“The school provided plenty of activities to immerse us into the culture,” said Little. “We learned about the history, the current political status, and so much more about life in Chile.”

Another benefit of the LITE was the friendship that formed between the three LEAP Scholars.

“Working alongside other Scholars was incredibly rewarding,” said Powell. “Despite our diverse backgrounds, we seamlessly collaborated as a team, learning from each other's unique perspectives. Sergeants Little and Arroyave were not only exemplary service members but also fantastic individuals to work with. Experiencing camaraderie among service members is vital, and this LITE provided an exceptional opportunity to strengthen those bonds.”

“We were a group of three Staff Sergeants,” said Arroyave. “We got along very well and were together mostly all the time. Our teachers thought we had known each other for years, when in reality, we had just met.”

According to Powell, the benefits of this LITE in Chile will continue to pay dividends in the future.

“This LITE was incredibly beneficial for me, particularly in enhancing my LEAP skills,” said Powell. “Despite speaking Spanish at home, the immersive experience and advanced communication tools provided by the professors significantly elevated my language proficiency. Studying grammar at a college level during the program will undoubtedly enhance my skills in various aspects, equipping me with the necessary tools for future tasks as a LEAP Scholar.”

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