MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
“I am assigned as the Assistant Director of Operations, 909th Air Refueling Squadron, 18th Operations Group, 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan. I am also an INDOPACOM Foreign Area Officer. As the Assistant Director of Operations, I ensure the combat readiness and training of 130 aircrew and support personnel to execute air refueling and aeromedical evacuation missions. The 909th is the only active-duty air refueling unit in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility. It supports operations from the South China Sea to Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.
“My language journey began in 2007 while conducting humanitarian activities in Japan. I’ve always liked international affairs and developed a love of the Japanese language and culture. Upon returning to the United States Air Force Academy following this sabbatical, I continued my language development by taking all the available Japanese courses to minor in Japanese.
“I received my commission from USAFA in 2011 where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies with minors in Philosophy and Japanese. I later earned a Master of Arts in International Relations, Conflict Resolution, from American Military University.
“I heard about the Language Enabled Airman Program through the Department of Foreign Languages at the Air Force Academy. What interested me were the opportunities for language sustainment, particularly through travel. It was only after acceptance into the program that I learned about the special experience identifier and foreign language proficiency bonus.
“As a LEAP Scholar, I have had the opportunity to do a Language Intensive Training Event in Fukuoka, Japan, and an Advanced LITE in Tokyo, Japan. I have also been invited numerous times to support operational planning conferences and exercises as an interpreter or to provide regional expertise and insight to commanders and critical decision-makers. The LITEs and other opportunities led to networking, resulting in by-name requests from various organizations. LEAP has been one of the starting points for becoming well connected within 5AF, USFJ, and PACAF communities. For example, I recently was asked to serve as the Chief of Staff of the Trilateral (U.S.-Japan-Australia) Headquarters for Exercise Cope North 22 in Guam.
“As a member of LEAP, I am also actively involved in our local LEAP chapter here at Kadena. The Shogun LEAP Chapter has several highly invested individuals. I serve on the professional development committee; one of the biggest things we do are monthly language-specific small group gatherings and language exchanges. Quarterly, we try to coordinate a DLPT test strategy course. We are also doing several community events, including supporting the other organizations on base and sponsoring an upcoming softball tournament, as we have found that sports translate across cultures.
“I personally try to sustain and improve my own LREC capabilities as well. I was recently published in the Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, special edition, Summer 2021, and routinely give presentations on how interpersonal relationships, the LREC skillset, and foreign affairs/international relations impacts our ability to be successful as a force and nation in preserving the rules-based international order.
“As I developed my LREC skillset through LEAP, I caught wind of several programs and opportunities. The one that interested me the most was the Mansfield Fellowship Program.
“The Mansfield Fellowship Program is sponsored by the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Foundation, named after former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, the late Mike Mansfield. The Mansfield Fellowship is a one-year program for mid-level U.S. federal employees that focuses on language and culture understanding through professional placements within Japanese government ministries. The Foundation only selects 10 federal employees each year from across all federal agencies. LEAP provided me a level of proficiency in Japanese that allowed me to focus on interpersonal relations while a Mansfield Fellow; ultimately strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance. Completing the fellowship also met the in-region training requirement for the Foreign Area Officer career field. With a master’s in International Relations, language proficiency, and the IRT, I was certified as a FAO by SAF/IA. While I am stationed at an operational flying assignment, I have transitioned to the 16Z (Rated FAO) career field, which will be my primary post assignment here at Kadena.
“I’m a huge advocate of the Air Force Culture and Language Center and the push for LREC, as it is vital and absolutely essential. Being a FAO, I utilize my LREC skillset along with operational relevance to engage with our bilateral partners regularly; but you don’t have to be a FAO to do that. Being good at your tactical skill set, and having LREC skills, empowers Airmen to be more lethal as a force. To remain tactically relevant and lethal, we must understand the operational environment we operate in; this includes language and cultures of both our allies AND our adversaries. Soft power skillsets will be vital to our lethality and ability to winning future wars.
“I encourage Airmen interested in LEAP to take the DLPT in your desired language regularly and seek opportunities to develop a balanced LREC skillset. Volunteer. Get involved. Study. There is a treasure chest of open-source information and academic material that can increase your regional understanding and strategic situational awareness. That’s critical to being a culturally impactful Airman; and the Air Force cannot win without culturally impactful Airmen.”
-Japanese LEAP Scholar and Foreign Area Officer Maj. Logan Barlow