MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Language-enabled service members at Air Force and joint bases worldwide connect at their local bases through LEAP Chapters. For example, the LEAP Chapter at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, also known as the “Shogun LEAP Chapter,” connects members of the Language Enabled Airman Program with members of the community and other language-enabled service members to enhance language capability and further the mission of LEAP.
Master Sgt. Justin Barao, a Tagalog language LEAP Scholar, served as the interim president of the Kadena Air Base LEAP Chapter when it was established in April 2021 and now serves as one of the Senior Enlisted Advisors for the chapter. In this capacity, he guides the executive council by helping to grow the organization, giving opportunities, and mentoring younger officers and enlisted members on what it takes to lead a chapter.
“Shogun LEAP’s mission is to sharpen Team Kadena’s future multilingual and culturally competent, language-enabled leaders through professional development and mentorship,” Barao said.
The Kadena LEAP Chapter meets monthly to discuss topics related to LEAP, language development, and utilization. They also conduct language enhancement events for 12 languages to help current LEAP Scholars and aspiring applicants.
“We conduct Language Professional Enhancement Events to help both aspiring applicants and current scholars practice their listening, reading, and speaking skills through educational and informed discussions on pre-selected topics,” Barao explained. “We also host a LEAP Mentorship Program to help aspiring applicants navigate application requirements to be more competitive and to educate current scholars on the different opportunities, key positions, and a road map for consideration.”
Most recently, the chapter hosted a celebration to highlight the 14 new LEAP Scholars selected during the 2022 officer and enlisted LEAP Selection cycle.
In addition to connecting active LEAP Scholars and other language-enabled service members who aspire to join the program, the Kadena LEAP Chapter is also active in the local Okinawa community.
“We’ve hosted, co-hosted, and initiated several events to support the local community here in Okinawa. Some of those events have included: a Defense Language Proficiency Test Strategies Class with former Defense Language Institute staff member Gunnery Sgt. Joshua McGraw; Japanese translations for the 18th Wing legal office; Ukrainian refugee resettlement; presentations with the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Committee and Naval Criminal Investigative Service for the 2022 Language and Culture Symposium; and several Hispanic Heritage Month events,” Barao said. “We also partnered with the Women’s Association and the LEAP Ramstein Chapter for a donation drive to supply 37 boxes of hygiene products, clothing, and toys for five orphanages in Niamey, Niger.”
The Kadena LEAP Chapter consistently advocates for the importance of LEAP and assisted five other bases inside and outside the United States with starting or reviving their local LEAP chapters.
“LEAP supports the number one priority of the National Security Strategy in both increasing lethality of the force and supporting and enabling critical security partnerships,” Barao said. “You don’t have to be on a Language Intensive Training Event or Training Partnership Request to make an impact. Bridging the gap between these events through LEAP Chapter-led events can help prepare current LEAP Scholars and aspiring LEAP applicants be ready when they are called upon.”
A current list of active LEAP Chapters is available at https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/AFCLC/LEAP-Chapter-Directory/. If you are interested in starting a LEAP Chapter at your local base, contact the Air Force Culture and Language Center Outreach Division at email@example.com.