MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. –
Since 2012, Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars and Foreign Area Officers from the Air Force Culture and Language Center have helped to support the Defense POW/MIA Agency’s mission. What started as linguistic support for DPAA’s Short-term Individual Augmentee Sourcing Conference has now developed into life-changing language, cultural and tactical support in helping DPAA connect with families of missing personnel.
“DPAA’s relationship with AFCLC originated because INDOPACOM units were having trouble filling the linguist skill sets needed on DPAA field missions,” Lillian Allshouse, Chief of DPAA’s Personnel OPS Division, said. “The assistance AFCLC affords DPAA is critically important because the linguists and capabilities they provide are vital for the communications we need in-country.”
Through requested language support utilizing AFCLC’s Training Partnership Requests, DPAA provides advanced LEAP Scholars and FAOs the opportunity to enhance their language and culture skills further by going on missions and receiving credit for their support.
“We now can use the Language Intensive Training Events to fill some of the language taskings assigned to PACAF. This allows linguists to deploy with our team, and it counts as a LITE to keep their language skills proficient,” Allshouse said.
During DPAA missions, LEAP Scholars and FAOs work alongside DPAA personnel and other STIAs to interpret accurately, completely, and appropriately to the level of the audience. Their translation and interpretation skills enable DPAA members to engage with military and government counterparts in conducting field investigations and excavations.
“Conducting field operations in 46 countries around the world, DPAA teams must communicate effectively with host nation officials, workers, and citizens for each mission to succeed,” DPAA Director Kelly McKeague said. “An integral part of the DPAA team, a LEAP Scholar provides vital linguistic skills and cultural norm information that contributes to the search for Americans missing from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
Many LEAP Scholars and FAOs who have supported DPAA missions often reengage and request to support more missions with DPAA, such as Hungarian LEAP Scholar 1st Lt. Attila Zsigmond, who supported a DPAA mission earlier this year.
“My Advanced LITE was an incredible experience. Not only did it push my language skills, but it also gave me a new perspective on working with international partners. Additionally, working with DPAA has been a humbling experience. The opportunity to assist in the recovery of POW/MIA Airmen strikes close to home as a member of the fighter community and has been an absolute honor that I’m very thankful for,” Zsigmond said.
Advanced LEAP Scholars and FAOs have provided language support for multiple missions with DPAA, both virtual and on-site. Many Scholars and FAOs support DPAA missions without direct facilitation from AFCLC as well, so the total amount of LEAP and FAO support throughout the years is more than measured. While helping DPAA achieve their mission, these Scholars also receive LITE credit for their participation, which is a critical component in being awarded the LEAP special experience identifier.
Capt. Krista Bible, Operations Officer for AFCLC’s Language Division, calls it an honor to facilitate language support for DPAA.
“There’s nothing more noble and critical than bringing our fallen service members home,” she said. “DPAA missions provide our Scholars and FAOs a unique opportunity to be immersed in another country and work in a joint environment with partner nation officials and citizens, all while utilizing their language and culture skillset to accomplish a real-world mission.”
In 2021, AFCLC’s mutually beneficial partnership with DPAA grew exponentially, even in the midst of a global pandemic. DPAA has also experienced a mutual benefit from its partnership with AFCLC in 2021 with sourcing linguist requirements.
“Since we have been using the AFCLC LITEs at the beginning of FY21, we’ve been able to source approximately 95% of our unsourced linguist requirements,” Allshouse said.
As world travel begins to reopen, AFCLC is looking forward to continuing to support DPAA’s mission to achieve the fullest possible accounting for missing and unaccounted-for U.S. personnel to their families and the nation.