CLIS-Russian alumnus selected for LEAP Air Force program

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2020

The Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC) has selected Lieutenant Jonathan('19 BA, CLIS-Russian) to participate in the center's Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP). In this interview, he discusses his career, love of language learning, and the significance of Russian culture.

MODL: Congratulations on your acceptance into LEAP. Could you tell us a little about the program?

Lt. Jonathan: Thank you! This is a significant milestone for me, both personally and professionally. The Language Enabled Airman Program is designed to encourage military members, both officers and enlisted, to pursue foreign language studies and cultural immersion. They provide online language training for varying language levels, opportunities to immerse in the target language, and additional avenues through which an airman's career can grow, such as access to special assignments. The end goal is to provide language skills, regional expertise, and cultural experience where it is needed, both operationally and in the workplace. 

MODL: You also mentioned that you currently work with translators in the Air Force. 

Lt. Jonathan: Yes, my job is essentially broken into two sections. When flying I'm an Information Integration Officer (IIO) performing actual operations. When on the ground I'm a Flight Commander of approximately 60 translators, some of whom are brand new and others who are 13-year veterans. When in the Flight Commander role my mission is ensuring mission readiness through training, language retention, and even morale, which has become increasingly important throughout the pandemic. 

MODL: I saw that Russian is listed on the Air Force Strategic Language List. How can a knowledge of Russian contribute to successful military operations?

Lt. Jonathan: Russian as a language has a far reach. It is spoken not only in Russia or Ukraine, the main countries people think about vis-à-vis the Russian language, but in several countries in Central Asia, such as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and countries along the Black and Caspian Sea, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan. Understanding Russian and what is going on in Russian speaking countries not only benefits Air Force operations but helps augment mutual understanding between countries. For example, the Open Skies Treaty represents a culmination of what Russian language mastery and a little diplomacy can do for Air Force operations and the United States writ large. This is an operation where unarmed aerial surveillance is performed over treaty members' territory in order to build trust and confidence about military forces and activities. 

MODL: Would you recommend Russian language studies to students at UTA?

Lt. Jonathan: An emphatic yes to that! I had great experiences in the Department of Modern Languages and the College of Liberal Arts. Russian is a very logical language, in comparison with something like English. Once you learn the rules it's kind of like a "plug and play" language. I love that about Russian, but there is also a lot that opens up to you when you study the language and culture. You discover foods like Kyrgyz beshbarmak (бешбармак) or Georgian khachapuri (хачапури) and books like We by Evgeny Zamyatin, which influenced Orwell's 1984. You gain insights into a culture with a storied history and an ambiguous future. Not to mention, there are various career opportunities for someone with Russian language proficiency.

1Lieutenant Jonathan's name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.