RAF Mildenhall hosts LEAP-ACE: language leaders leading the way

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katie Mullikin
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 100th Air Refueling Wing hosted a Language Enabled Airman Postured for Agile Combat Employment course at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, from April 29 to May 17, 2024.

LEAP-ACE is a program designed to develop language, regional expertise and cultural capabilities in 97 strategic languages among Airmen.

“The Language Enabled Airman Program is a program through which the Air Force fosters foreign language speakers within the force,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Clisset, 54th Operation Support Squadron director of operations. “It helps us improve our language skills, provides tutoring opportunities and pairs us up with language instructors to maintain and hone our communication skills.”

The LEAP-ACE course sprang into existence after realizing that LEAP scholars needed to learn and use specific vocabulary and syntax within their career fields to fulfill military objectives in foreign allied nations. LEAP-ACE provides realistic ACE instruction into the student's language learning, further developing Airman’s comprehension of ACE concepts and terminology in target languages.

“LEAP-ACE is a learning environment for LEAP scholars to practice their language skills to see how they can implement those skills on a forward mission,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tatiana Dubose, 316th Medical Squadron dental technician.

Thirteen LEAP scholars and four Romanian Air Force Airmen traveled from the United States, Italy, Germany and Romania to RAF Mildenhall, which was chosen because of its central location for travelers while maintaining a forward location within Europe, to participate in the first Black Sea region LEAP-ACE course.

The 18-day course, which focused on Polish, Romanian, and Ukrainian-speaking LEAP scholars, included one week of cross-cultural communication and negotiation strategies, followed by advanced language discussions, research, and capstone projects with roleplay enabling ACE integration and multinational interoperability.

“As language students, we want to ensure that we can support the Air Force mission in whatever way we can,” said Dubose. “We want to bridge the gap between cultures and languages.”

Students practiced their communication skills by discussing culture, literature, geography, history, social and environmental issues, politics, national security, and military and international relations. They also learned and used job-relevant jargon and technical terms when addressing military counterparts and operational tasks.

“As a student, this was an opportunity to improve my grasp of more technical terms,” said Clisset. “There are very few opportunities to get expertise and specialists together to discuss technical terms that go into executing missions. We can now get together to build our vocabulary and work on our technical terminology to communicate in scenarios where we might deploy to a foreign country.”

Throughout the course, students analyzed and developed concepts based on the material and situations presented to them. Students were expected to do self-guided studies, conduct research, create presentations, and lead class discussions to demonstrate their language proficiency.

“It’s really neat to combine the theoretical part of ACE with realistic ACE scenarios,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Aleksandra Wantke, 319th Medical Group clinical psychologist. “We got to spend quite a bit of time in the field learning about the different components of logistics, transportation, air traffic control and how that fits into a theoretical scenario and finally bring it together in the target language.”

By bringing U.S. and partner nation forces together, LEAP-ACE helps ensure Airmen practice mission readiness and air superiority in a realistic scenario.

“This course is important for LEAP scholars to help further support and bridge the gap with our international counterparts,” said Dubose. “It is also a way for us as translators and interpreters to learn and improve our language skills so we can be mission ready.”

As Airmen aimed to enhance their confidence in speaking and translating ACE terminology, they also strengthened their relationships with their partner nation counterparts, who they could find themselves next to in the early phases of contingency operations or crisis support.

"The biggest takeaway was learning and working with Polish and Ukrainian-speaking U.S. students as well as Romanian Air Force counterparts," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Liviu Bogdan, 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron air advisor. "It opened my eyes to how we can interact and how similar we are in spite of our differences in culture and language.”

Through LEAP-ACE training, the Air Force ensures the strengthening of global alliances and partnerships devoted to security and stability and maintaining air superiority across the European and African theater anytime, anywhere.