LLCs vital to linguist mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachelle Blake
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
Not every Airman has what it takes to become a linguist.

Long before they step off the bus at basic military training, potential candidates must complete a Defense Language Aptitude Battery test. The test examines their capability to learn a secondary language and if they pass their score is used to determine which level of difficulty their assigned language will be.

If they are given the green light and complete BMT, they could face more than a year of technical training. But, it doesn't end there.

Once in the operational Air Force, not only are they required to perform their job, but they must also maintain and even enhance their knowledge.

To provide assistance with these needs, are Language Learning Centers. The 55th Wing houses two LLCs, one on Offutt and another at a geographically separated unit on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

Combined, the centers are responsible for the training of more than 600 linguists. Their languages include Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Persian Farsi, Russian, Pashto, Arabic, Hebrew and Dari.

"For the most part, every base with a linguist population has some semblance of a language center," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Courtney Bailey, Offutt LLC NCO-in-charge. "The purpose of a language center is to facilitate language maintenance and training.  The resources will vary by center." 

Offutt's LLC is run by four military members and one civilian and houses six dedicated classrooms, a library with commercial internet access, a testing facility and a conference room.

Davis-Monthan's LLC is a much newer facility with two military members and one civilian maintaining the LLC.  Not long ago, the language program was run out a small office in the 43rd Electronic Communication Squadron.

"We...took advantage of our blank slate and surveyed the linguist population for what they would like to see," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Roe, Davis-Monthan LLC NCO-in-charge. "Using the information we collected and the knowledge of available language training, we shaped the LLC to support training as diverse as the languages that are spoken here. We have a quiet study area, four distance learning stations in two distance learning rooms and a media room. Having a location that is dedicated to the study of language is a necessity for a linguist trying to maintain their target language."

A proficient linguist is required to complete a certain number of monthly study hours dependent on their language, 150 hours of a significant language training event at least every 18 months, and an annual proficiency test. If a member goes subproficient, the demand increases.

"As a linguist, there are requirements...that govern class attendance, language maintenance and proficiency," Bailey said. "While our purpose is to facilitate all three of those obligations, our primary focus is on classes. We conduct classes at different levels throughout the year, eliminating the need for large numbers of TDYs and, therefore, saving the Air Force money." 

In order to meet this demand, Roe said the language instructors come from all over to teach the linguists. The same goes for Offutt's LLC.

"Our center currently does not have full-time dedicated instructors so we run classes called Mobile Training Teams," Bailey said. "Instructors come in from other locations to instruct the classes here." 

Another valued asset is their testing facility.

"Our center has a dedicated testing facility to conduct language proficiency testing," Bailey said.  "While we are only test administrators and not test control officers, we do augment the base education center by alleviating the testing burden that would be placed on them if they were solely responsible for this task.  It also gives us the flexibility to offer testing as often as needed to serve the linguists on base."

The center administered more than 1,822 tests in fiscal year 15. Davis-Monthan has also taken the initiative to work with local colleges.

"As a University of Arizona student, I have taken many classes including upper level and lower level foreign language classes and I knew the high standard UA held was in line with the needs of the 55th Electronic Communication Group linguists," Roe said. "The UA and their Critical Language Program are ready to offer language training to all languages that are represented in the 55th ECG. There are even hopes for immersions and for credit options to linguists who are students at UA."

Overall, the LLCs are always looking forward to do whatever they can to make the demands on linguists as stress-free as possible.

"It is the chance to step away from the office and to be able to focus on the language, whether individually, in a study group or in class," said Bailey. "Our facility is geographically separated from the primary units that we serve which makes it just a bit easier for someone to come over and be able to study without interruption." 

Roe echoed her sentiment.

"We hope to make linguists more excited about their target language by offering exciting and effective training, both monthly and annually, in a comfortable learning environment," he added.