For many U.S. military members, living in a foreign country is common place. In fact, many Americans join the military for that opportunity, but few can say they served in China. However, a 56th Fighter Wing instructor pilot will soon do just that. Capt. Daniel Wynn, 56th Operations Support Squadron operations flight commander, was among just five Air Force officers selected for the Olmsted Scholar Class of 2015.
The highly competitive program, which is sponsored by The George and Carol Olmsted Foundation, offers military line officers with at least three years of commissioned service but not more than 11 years of total active-duty service an opportunity to learn a foreign language and then study abroad at an international university.
“My first feeling was relief to finally know the results of the selection board after an eight-month application process,” Wynn said, who found out in late March that he was selected. Then his thoughts quickly shifted to preparing himself and his family for this new adventure.
“I’m really proud of his accomplishment because it is such a selective program that even the best get passed over,” said Lt. Col. Keith Rockow, 56th OSS commander.
Officers from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps may apply for the program, which prepares graduates for more leadership responsibilities and opportunities. This year only 18 officers were selected from the four military branches. Each year, the number of scholars chosen varies based on the foundation’s financial ability to support them and the available pool of qualified candidates. During the past 10 years, the average number of scholars selected each year has been 20.
Since its inception in 1960, the program’s purpose has been to broadly educate young career military line officers who exhibit extraordinary potential for becoming the country’s future military leaders, which according to Rockow, Wynn epitomizes.
“He has such a perfect personality and approach to life that make him a great fit for The Olmsted Scholar Program,” Rockow said.
“You can tell by being around him for a little while that he has a genuine interest and concern to help people and make those around him better. Additionally, he has the ability to listen to others and understand their perspective. This makes him a great fit to represent our Air Force and our country as part of the Olmsted program.”
Following his assignment at Luke, Wynn will begin classes in July at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., where he will study and master Mandarin in one year. From there, the dad to four children will move with his family to Guilin, China, to attend Guangxi Normal University as a full-time student to earn a Master of Arts in International Relations. This degree will also serve as his Intermediate Development Education.
“I really like foreign languages, which is one of the reasons I chose China as a possible location for my Olmsted scholarship,” said the captain, who in addition to English speaks Portuguese fluently and has a background in Italian, Spanish and French. “The challenge of learning Mandarin intrigues me.”
For as long as he can remember, Wynn has been interested in learning about other cultures. As a cadet, he had an opportunity to take an extended break from the U.S. Air Force Academy to serve as a Latter Day Saint missionary in Brazil.
“Not only did that experience teach me fluent Portuguese, but there is something about being immersed in another culture that helps you understand people better, to include what motivates them,” Wynn said. “I wanted to be an Olmsted scholar to get another valuable experience like that, to learn another language and also to give my family the opportunity to be immersed in another culture.”
From this upcoming experience, Wynn feels he’ll gain valuable communication and leadership skills to make him a better communicator, instructor and officer.
“One important aspect to leadership and instructing is understanding what motivates those you are leading and instructing,” the eight-year veteran said.” I think that if I can learn how to understand someone from a small city in China, it’ll help me understand the Airmen that I work with throughout the rest of my career in the Air Force.”
The Olmsted Foundation strongly encourages the scholars’ families to accompany them throughout the program.
“My kids are never excited about moving, but always end up liking our next assignment,” Wynn said. To prepare for the move to China, they’ve been watching a lot of Ni Hao Kai-Lan episodes on Nickelodeon, “and now they are pumped.”