LEAP program helps Airmen to do what they love

by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

What if you were told you could take your Air Force job to an exotic country and it is not in a deployed environment? What if you could take that path and continue doing what you love?

A few Airmen get to do just that — all they need is to be accepted into the Learning Enabled Airman Program.

According to their website, LEAP is “designed and managed by the Air Force Culture and Language Center to sustain, enhance and utilize the existing language skills and talents” of Airmen. The program’s goal is to develop a core group of Airmen in various career fields who can use one or more foreign languages.
Nearly 500 Airmen applied for the program this fall, and their submissions are being evaluated.

The program typically holds two selection boards each year. The next board will be in spring 2013.

“This year was the first year LEAP has accepted enlisted Airmen,” said Maj. C.C. Masotti, LEAP participant and U.S. Air Forces in Europe country desk officer for France, Portugal and Spain. “This is a great addition to the LEAP force because NCOs are a major strength of our force.”

To be considered for LEAP, Airmen must show that they have an existing foreign language capability, and that they are willing to use that capability. That ability is measured by the Defense Language Proficiency Test, the Defense Language Aptitude Battery scores and any previous foreign language exposure.

“Just test. If you’re not sure if you will do well and are even a little bit curious, take the tests and see where you are,” Masotti said. “There is nothing to lose.”

One advantage of the program is the potential for monetary compensation for language knowledge.

LEAP participants don’t receive special pay as part of the program, but many do qualify for the Air Force’s Language Proficiency Bonus Pay.

“The biggest advantage — the opportunity to use your own love of language and cultures to the benefit of the Air Force,” Masotti said. “You get to be a part of a program that promotes the immersion and continual growth of your knowledge base in languages.”

Masotti recently returned here from a week-long temporary duty assignment to Dakar, Senegal, for a conference featuring African air chiefs as a translator and transcriber.

 Most of the air chiefs spoke French, her strongest language.

“What an experience to be in the room of 12 different air chiefs from Africa, Gen. (Mark) Welsh’s (chief of staff of the Air Force) African equivalents, was amazing,” she said. “I got to speak to them using their language.”

LEAP currently has almost 1,000 Airmen and are about to conduct another selection board, which will bring them over the 1,000 mark.

With only 1,000 Airmen in LEAP, they make up only 0.3 percent of the total Air Force, making them more exclusive than Mensa in America.

To apply for LEAP, go to the application page of the LEAP website, www.culture.af.mil/leap/application.aspx.

The application window for the fall LEAP selection took place Aug. 31.
Applications submitted from here on will be deferred until the next application period.