Airman's heritage supports POW/MIA mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicholas Ross
  • 355th Wing

The U.S. Air Force has many opportunities for Airmen to develop skills they already have. From the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line Program to the Air Force Digital University, there is an Air Force education program out there for everyone to help discover or enhance these skills.

Looking to utilize his language skills, an Air Force active duty officer, who emigrated to the U.S. from Germany with his family in high school, discovered an Air Force education program called, Language Enabled Airman Program, while browsing the Air Force Portal.

LEAP is an Air Force Culture and Language Center managed, volunteer program that deliberately develops language enabled, cross-cultural Airmen and Guardians with working-level foreign language proficiency.

“I wanted to use my native proficiency in German,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jens Kaiser, 355th Force Support Squadron sustainment services flight commander. “Knowing a language is one part, but also having the cultural understanding of that language is something that sets apart native speakers with someone learning the language.”

To become a LEAP scholar, Kaiser had to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language specified on the Air Force Strategic Language List, receive endorsement from his unit commander and compete for nomination through a board process. The board reviewed his academic history and job performance, existing language proficiency, his potential to achieve higher levels of language proficiency, and saw if he met the Air and Space Force language requirements.

“I knocked out my defense language proficiency tests and oral proficiency interview and applied,” said Kaiser. “I was accepted on my first board that I applied to.”

Kaiser’s LEAP consisted of multiple courses, one of which, the strategic competition German language course, is part of the Cyber Language Intensive Training Event. Cyber LITE is a strategic power competition course for advanced language proficiency LEAP scholars, who have career-related ties to cyber operations and/or an academic background in cyber studies.

“You get an extreme sense of accomplishment when completing a LITE, as well as a boost in confidence regarding your language and cultural capabilities,” said Kaiser.

An additional course, an advanced German military engagement practicum, Kaiser supported the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency operations in a recovery of a crashed B-17 Flying Fortress from World War II.

“As I had prior knowledge about what DPAA does and stands for, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to assist with the mission,” said Kaiser.

On July 31, 2021, he traveled to Rheinsberg, Germany, to assist with the excavation mission.

“We all participated in the digging and the sifting through dirt, but my primary duty was translating,” said Kaiser. “I was able to translate information between the archaeologist and team leads with the German explosive ordnance disposal, witnesses, historians, community leaders and local press.”

LEAP scholars who attain the required level of proficiency and experience are awarded the LEAP Special Experience Identifier, which identifies qualified service members for language-related assignments and other opportunities such as the DPAA mission that Kaiser took part in.

“If you know a second language, LEAP will help you maintain and fine tune your language capabilities allowing you to put them to real world use,” said Kaiser. “I wanted to make sure to put that skillset to use for the Air Force.”