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By Lori Quiller, Air Force Culture and Language Center Outreach Team
/ Published October 15, 2021
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall addressed attendees virtually during the Air Force Culture and Language Center and Air University’s sixth annual Language, Regional Expertise and Culture Symposium, Oct. 13, thanking Air and Space professionals for continuing to hone their culture and language skills in the pursuit of building alliances and partner capacity in defense of our nation.
“I want to emphasize the important role language training and cultural understanding play in today’s global operations,” Kendall said in his keynote address. “Language is a warfighting capability. Our language-enabled Airmen and Guardians operate in foreign countries around the world, and their ability to communicate in a foreign language and understand cultural nuances are critical to their success.”
Kendall was quick to pinpoint the strategic threat China brings to the table due in large part to a “significant risk of misinterpretation and missed signals.” China has been a frequent topic of discussion for the 26th Air Force secretary, and he wasted no time bringing the subject to the symposium attendees.
“Collectively, we Americans lack an adequate understanding of Chinese culture,” he explained. “We run a significant risk of misinterpretation and missed signals when we project our own perspectives upon Chinese actions and communications. The work Air University and the Air Force Culture and Language Center do is crucial to developing cultural understanding. In every sense, the training our Airmen and Guardians receive is indispensable for preparing them to join their colleagues on the frontlines of global strategic competition.”
Kendall further emphasized that Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) Airmen and Guardians will continue to be instrumental in building strategic alliances for the U.S., all resting on a foundation on language, regional expertise and culture skills.
“Our success in the Indo-Pacific hinges upon our allies and partners in the region … Developing these skills empowers our Airmen, Guardians and allied forces to operate effectively in the complex, interdependent international security environment,” he said. “I think it’s also important to note that the commonalities between language-enabled Airmen and Guardians and the department’s diversity inclusion efforts are very much aligned. The LREC skills we value bring women and men from diverse ethnic and academic backgrounds into our department. Diversity in cultural background, gender and professional experience is needed for our future success.”