OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. — Two members of the 55th Wing were selected to participate in the Olmstead Scholar Program for the class of 2013.
Capt. Michael Sullivan, 55th Electronic Combat Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and Capt. Scott Wallace, 338th Combat Training Squadron here, were two of only six Air Force members selected for the program.
“When I first heard that I was accepted I was both shocked and relieved,” said Sullivan, who is the director of staff for the 55th ECG and an EC-130H pilot. “The shock is … because the Olmsted Scholarship is so competitive across the services and the relief is from the agony of anticipation.”
“It was a little surreal at first,” said Wallace, who is currently deployed, but serves as the director of international training and chief instructor for all RC-135V/W information integration officers with the 338th CTS. “Olmsted’s been my goal for a few years, so I mostly laughed and shook hands with the folks deployed with me and then I called my family back in the states to share the news with them.”
Sullivan and Wallace will both attend graduate programs overseas where they’ll study in that country’s native language and interact with the local population throughout the duration.
“I chose China for a multitude of reasons but none more important than their growing influence and political and military power,” Sullivan said. “The more we know and understand about China, the more we will be able to build a lasting partnership and continue improving our relations.”
“I’ll be studying in New Delhi, most likely at Jawaharlal Nehru University,” Wallace said. “India was my first choice and I’m thrilled to go to such a unique country.”
The Olmstead Scholar Program is a highly competitive and very prestigious program. Every scholar is nominated by their military service and only 19 were selected in all.
“What an awesome opportunity for two of our best and brightest young officers,” said Brig. Gen. Don Bacon, 55th Wing commander. “This is an incredible honor for them and I couldn’t be more proud to have two members of the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth selected into this elite group.”
Both selectees are excited to get started even with the challenges ahead of learning a new language and then working on an advanced degree in a foreign country.
“Just as Rome was not built in one day, my language abilities will have to grow daily during my first year of language immersion,” Sullivan said. “It’s not going to be easy but I’ve never been one to complain. With the Olmsted Scholarship, I think you learn as much, if not more, from the hurdles associated with uprooting your life and integrating into a foreign country where they do not even speak your native language.”
“The first hurdle will be learning Hindi, which should happen at the Defense Language Institute over the next year,” Wallace said. “From there I think it’ll be a matter of using every opportunity to practice that I can, both in school and while out traveling around the country.”
During the program both Sullivan and Wallace said they will inundate themselves into the local culture as much as possible.
“I’m excited about every aspect of this adventure,” Sullivan said, “from the cultural emersion, travel, language training, personal growth as well as foreign education.”
“India’s got such a diverse history and culture,” Wallace said, “I know there’ll always be something more to learn and experience.”
For more information on the Olmsted Scholar Program visit their website.