MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. — The U.S. Air Force Culture and Language Center recently released the results of the first Language Enabled Airman Program selection board solely for enlisted Airmen.
The selection of 199 applicants nearly triples the number of enlisted Airmen in the program.
The program aims to sustain, enhance and utilize the existing foreign language skills of Airmen. As LEAP participants, these Airmen will receive language learning opportunities throughout their careers.
“The program seeks to develop cross-culturally competent leaders with working-level foreign language proficiency; leaders who can meet Air Force global mission requirements,” said Zachary Hickman, the AFCLC Language Division chief. “We select Airmen from jobs across the Air Force. They stay in their ‘day jobs,’ but they gain a level of language and culture learning that allows them to do their day jobs in another language and in another country.”
More than 300 applications were received, and the Airmen selected had skills in 42 different languages. Of those selected, the most common language ability was Spanish, but other languages represented were Arabic, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Punjabi, Swahili and Vietnamese. Airmen were evaluated on not just their language skills, but also their demonstrated abilities and potential to be a quality participant.
“We look at the whole person: their performance reports, their prior education and background, as well as endorsement comments from their supervisors,” Hickman said. “It all adds up to tell us that a person is not just able, but is also willing, to use their language skills for the Air Force.”
Program administrators and selection board members chose the most qualified candidates by matching the Airmen’s skills with manning guidance from the Air Staff. Additionally, applicants possessing low-density language skills were given special consideration to build the breadth and depth of LEAP resources for future contingencies.
LEAP began as a pilot program in 2009. Until recently, new candidates consisted primarily of officers and officer candidates. The next selection board for officers will be held in fall 2013. The next selection board for enlisted candidates will be held in spring 2014. Exact dates have not been set, but interested candidates are encouraged to schedule Defense Language Proficiency Tests or Oral Proficiency Interviews with their local base education offices in preparation for the application period.
For more information, see the AFCLC website at www.culture.af.mil/leap.