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LEAP boosts AF language capability

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Amid the darkness and the sputters of machine gunfire, service members hustle to assess and treat combat casualty victims. These victims have suffered injuries ranging from loss of limbs to sucking chest wounds.

Adding to an already disorienting environment is the hodgepodge of English, coming from the directions of the combat medic instructing the service members who only speak Polish.

While this combat environment and the causalities are simulated for training purposes, the Polish service members swiftly moved through the exercise with the translating assistance of Capt. Dariusz Piszczek, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot with 14th Airlift Squadron out of Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and a Polish-language participant in the Language Enabled Airman Program.

LEAP is a program that identifies and cultivates the existing foreign language skills of Airmen for the life of their career. The goal of the program is to develop a core group of Airmen from across career fields and ranks who are able to communicate in one or more foreign languages.

Managed through the Air Force Culture and Language Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., LEAP now accepts applications from active-duty officer candidates, commissioned officers and enlisted Airmen from select career fields who meet specific Defense Language Proficiency Test standards among other qualifications. Participants selected for LEAP receive continuous language training to keep their skills sharp via weekly online instruction and a four- to six-week Language Intensive Training Event every three to four years.

"I was interested [in LEAP] because I was able to refine my language or keep using it so I don't forget it," Piszczek said.

All of LEAP's training is put to use when the Air Force identifies assignments that require Airmen with language skills. For Piszczek, who was born in Poland and learned Polish as his first language, that opportunity led him to Hurlburt Field. Here Piszczek is tasked with translating for Polish service members as they receive a variety of training, including flight and combat first aid.

"So far the online classes are very helpful," Piszczek said. "[Translating] this training is going to be very helpful because it's going to force me to use the language and terms I've never used before, especially medical terms. Also for flying and all the technical terms that I don't know, I'll learn them this way."

Beyond just working with the Polish service members every day, Piszczek is also living with them for a full cultural immersion. In addition to facilitating international partnerships through translation, Piszczek is also altering perceptions of Americans.

"It's valuable just because the stereotypes of Americans are that you only know one language," Piszczek said. "This is going to broaden everyone's appreciation for another language and make more people fluent in those languages."

LEAP currently has 66 total languages represented among about 1,000 Airmen. The application window for the next selection board is open now until the end of August. Applicants from 15 officer career fields and 19 enlisted career fields as well as officer candidates are sought for the current selection board.

"If you really want to improve your language skills, this program will help you out," Piszczek said. "It's a pretty intense program. You're going to have to put a lot of work in the week to do the program. I would say go for it."

For more information on LEAP including career fields eligible and other application requirements, please visit the AFCLC Web site at http://www.culture.af.edu/.