By Jasmine Bourgeois, Air Force Culture and Language Center Outreach Team
/ Published October 21, 2020
The Air Force Culture and Language Center’s mission is to educate Airmen of all ranks about language and culture. The purpose of creating the AFCLC was to create a widespread cross-culture competent Air Force, to ensure Airmen have a basic understanding of the culture when they deploy or go on temporary duty assignments in a different country. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Tammie Ramsouer)
Once a year, hundreds of people travel to Maxwell Air Force Base for the Air Force Culture and Language Center and Air University’s annual Language, Regional Expertise and Culture Symposium. Scholars and practitioners from across the Department of Defense and the LREC community come together to meet, greet and share ideas.
This year, the pandemic and travel restrictions changed everything, and AFCLC leadership made the decision to convert to a virtual format, which was held Oct. 14-16, 2020. The silver lining: hosting the symposium virtually allowed for more than 2,000 people to attend from all over the world including Japan, Kenya, and Germany.
“Since the symposium began, our registration numbers continually increased, and we are so thrilled,” said Walter Ward, AFCLC director.
The first-ever virtual event still featured panel discussions and presentations much like the traditional symposium and included an all-star lineup of guest speakers including opening remarks from Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Stephen W. “Steve” Wilson.
Barrett’s remarks, as a whole, acknowledged the AFCLC’s many accomplishments and historical achievements over the past 10 years.
“Although culture and language skills proved critical to counterinsurgency efforts following the attacks of 9/11, just-in-time training proved insufficient in developing the appropriate depth and breadth Airmen and allies needed to operate effectively. The establishment of the Air Force Culture and Language Center represented a strategic pivot toward expanding our cultural understanding of allies and partners,” she said.
Sticking to this year’s symposium theme “Hindsight 2020,” Barrett, along with all the featured speakers, continued to examine the last 10 years of global operations and the effects that LREC training had in planning and executing U.S. goals, as well as looking to the future. Many of these remarks also included mentions of the National Defense Strategy and the Air Force’s shift to focus on Great Power Competition.
During his virtual message, Russell J. Frasz, director, Force Development, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters Air Force and the Air Force Senior Language Authority, stated, “With this renewed emphasis on competition and warfighting, language is an essential warfighting capability. The ability to speak in a foreign language is a weapon in our Air and Space arsenals. Our country depends on Air and Space professionals’ LREC skills to carry out operations around the world. We must develop Airmen now to anticipate the future Air Force’s needs.”
The free virtual event featured nearly a dozen speakers and 80 different panels and presentations. For the attendees, each day of the symposium offered a new opportunity to learn and interact with DOD professionals and academic experts from around the world. In separate break-out sessions, registrants were able to pick and choose from a variety of topics and speakers. There were sessions on partnerships, interoperability, LEAP, global basing, violent extremism and more.
Planning is already underway for the 2021 AU LREC Symposium and the theme is tentatively set as “The Great Power of Culture.” For more information and updates, visit the symposium website: https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/AFCLC/AU-LREC/.