ISR Squadron leads Air Force in language programs

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Story by SSgt Alex Montes on 10/13/2017
The distinction of being selected as the U.S. Air Force's Command Language Program of the Year goes to the Airmen of the 34th Intelligence Squadron, Fort George G. Meade, Md.

Their first place win was hard fought, as they competed against the more than 130 programs that entered the Air Force competition. The team followed up that win with second place at the Department of Defense's competition.

"The 34th IS program has enabled partner agencies and Air Force intelligence professionals to be the best mission operators," said Tech. Sgt. Colin, 34th IS. This comes from the dedication the squadron's command language program managers have had over the last year transforming their command language analysts to be better professionals and warfighters through cultural change.

The partnership began when program managers at the 34th IS noted that initial DLPT (Defense Language Proficiency Test) scores dropped after their assigned Airmen graduated from technical school, said Tech. Sgt. Colin, command language program manager, 34th IS.

"We found that this was not due to a lack of resources or motivation, but that (Airmen) lacked the necessary skills for maintaining year-long learning, such as time management, setting goals and knowledge of efficient study habits," he said.

The squadron's program managers, in their effort to improved capabilities, decided to do something about the deficiency.

"Our goal, like with other CLPs, was to get our language analysts to 3/3 (3 out of 3 proficiency level)," said Staff Sgt. Catherine, 34th IS CLPM.

But, the team's goal was not just to improve Airmen's test scores.
Their intent in transforming the program was to lead Airmen to be more professional, multi-disciplined command language analysts and not just individuals who could achieve higher scores on the proficiency test, Catherine said.

In preparing to meet the goal, the CLPM team completed assessments and identified the three essential skill sets needed to help improve the Airmen's capabilities, autonomous learning, mentorship and leadership involvement.

"To help resolve these challenges, we participated in two pilot projects the High-level Language Aptitude Battery (Hi-LAB) and the Tailored Empowered Language Learning program (TELL)," Colin said.

The Hi-LAB is a composite test that analyzes and pin-points which languages a person is able to learn at high levels, he said.

After taking the Hi-LAB, command language analysts are supplied with language aptitude profiles which provide their overall strengths and weakness in their cognitive functions. This information will help Airmen with their specific languages, Colin said.

"Throughout the wing, CLA's are supplied with Language Aptitude Profiles to provide them their overall strengths and weakness in specific languages," he said.

To mirror and support Hi-LAB, the 34th IS CLPM's participated in TELL. This program fortifies a ground base for lifelong learning, allowing each Airman to have specifically crafted training plans, he added.

TELL was a joint venture put together by the National Cryptologic School and the University of Maryland's Center of Advanced Study of Language. It was first tested in 2016 on eight CLA's, all of whom said that they felt more confident in their language skills after participating, said Colin.

Through their innovation and hard word, the 34th IS program managers created a model for changing how their Airmen will learn for years to come, Colin said. This will not only affect local and geographically separated units of the 70th ISRW, but the program managers' mindset may also be integrated into Air Force Reserve component and National Guard language analyst programs, as well as U.S. Marine programs, he said.

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