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Student becomes the teacher

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ashley Thrash
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif.-- Sixty-four weeks or 2,240 hours of schoolwork is the average length of the Chinese mandarin class at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center on the Presidio of Monterey, California.

Staff Sgt. Uruwishi Holzhausen successfully completed the Chinese mandarin course in 2010. He returned to POM in 2019 assigned to the 314th Training Squadron as a military language instructor and teaches the language to dozens of joint service enlisted and officer students.

“I knew it would be hard,” said Holzhausen. “But I didn’t know it would be as hard as it ended up being. As a student, I was up until midnight every night studying as hard as I could, and it got to the point where there were diminishing returns. I was studying too hard and getting no sleep.”

After facing medical issues, Holzhausen was given a choice to either recycle back a few weeks, stay in his current class or wave the white flag; he chose to recycle, falling behind 30 weeks. Holzhausen spent around 80 weeks in class and allowed himself to really master the language and improve his skills. 

“After DLIFLC, my classes at Goodfellow took the language that I had learned in the normal curriculum and military class, and combined them,” said Holzhausen. “It was a snapshot of what I was expected to do when I finally got to the job.”

Between leaving DLIFLC and returning as an instructor, Holzhausen was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii and realized many of his wingmen didn’t want to be there or do their assigned job. Holzhausen realized he could have a bigger impact on the Airmen who will take his place in the future.

Holzhausen teaches around seven hours of class a day in addition to other administrative duties. In class, Holzhausen can use the tools he learned as a student to help his students overcome the challenges of the Chinese mandarin course.

“The job that we have is so important and can shape the future of the United States and all of our allies,” said Holzhausen. “It can be down to one person interpreting a character or a syllable properly. I became a language instructor because you never learn more than when you teach and I wanted to help build the next generation of linguists and help them become even better than me.”