You can go far with Air Force's LEAP

  • Published
  • By Maj. Tomoyuki Ono
  • U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Flying Qualities chief
As a member of the Language Enabled Airmen Program, I had the opportunity to support the first-ever Pacific Partner Nation Silver Flag exercise at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, last month as part of a two-week TDY.

This was the first time the Silver Flag exercise was held at the Pacific Regional Training Center with students from four different partner nations. 

Led by engineers from Andersen's 554th RED HORSE Squadron, engineers from the Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force began the exercise Feb. 13.

Silver Flag is a U.S. Pacific Air Forces multilateral subject-matter-expert exchange exercise designed to build partnerships and promote interoperability through the exchange of civil engineer-related information.

My job was to help translate training materials into Japanese and also interpret real-time during the exercise, both in the classroom and out in the field.
For this exercise, the team consisted of three Japanese and four Korean translators from different career fields, both officer and enlisted, and at various language skill levels. 

Through this experience, translators became exceptionally knowledgeable on civil engineering contingency operations and also got hands-on experience fixing airfield damage, setting up aircraft arresting systems, and how to react to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.
Personally, as a flight test engineer, I learned a lot about what CE Airmen do and how their contingency operations can affect aircraft mission execution.

So how did this opportunity come about for us translators?

Three of the translators were sent through LEAP's Language Intensive Training Event (LITE). Those accepted in the LEAP program have the opportunity to participate in LITE, which varies from visiting a local language school to supporting military-related events. These events are sponsored by the Air Force Culture and Language Center to enhance and sustain the language and culture skills for the Air Force.

To become a participant in LEAP, Airmen must already have moderate to high levels of proficiency in a foreign language specified on the Air Force Strategic Language List, as measured by Defense Language Proficiency Tests or Oral Proficiency Interviews. Interested Airmen should contact their local test control officer, usually located at the Education Office, to check if their language is on the Air Force SLL.

All eligible Airmen should put in an application to the board. We need to make sure that the Air Force is aware of the capabilities that an Airmen can bring to accomplish the global mission. Also, not to forget the amazing opportunities that LEAP can provide to enhance your language abilities and cultural understanding.

To learn more about LEAP, visit