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Airmen graduate from benchmark Russian linguist class

  • Published
  • By Matthew McGovern
  • 16th Air force
Twelve Airmen from the 543rd Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group graduated from a benchmark Russian linguist language class here, Friday, rapidly filling deficiencies while minimizing costs.    

“As the priorities of our country shifted, we found ourselves with a gap in critical languages, including Russian,” said Lt. Col. Jessica Adkins, 93rd Intelligence Squadron commander. “We did what Airmen do, and that’s innovate. With support of the group, wing and the [Air Force Cryptologic Office], we found money and crafted a first-of-its-kind plan to quickly train linguists outside of the [Defense Language Institute].”  

Before this class, students would have to attend DLI in Monterey, California for training.

“Headquarters Air Force approved the training outside the standard DLI process resulting in approximately 1.6 million dollars in [Permanent Change of Station] cost savings in a time of tightening budgets,” said Eileen Garza-Avlonitis, 543rd Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance deputy group commander. “What has been accomplished here has truly paved the way for future iterations of language training across the Air Force.”

Russian speaking contractors taught the ten-month course at JBSA-Lackland, to students who had different language linguist backgrounds, who were already stationed at the base.

“I was a prior Urdu Linguist, speaking the language of Pakistan, and I’m excited to put my skills to use for the long-standing mission translating Russian,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Wrinm, Russian Linguist graduate. “When you’re doing this mission, what you’re doing is safeguarding the troops abroad and people at home. The intelligence we provide helps decision makers and world shakers in Washington make important decisions.”

Upon graduation, the students will stay at JBSA-Lackland where they will converge their language capabilities to generate information warfare outcomes for combatant commanders and air components.

“The positive of this is [the students] didn’t necessarily want to leave right away; they’ve been here a long time already as linguists and their quality of life and family is already here,” said Garza-Avlonitis. “It’s a win-win. They’ll get to stay for one more assignment and then they’ll be prone to moving.”  

The training paved the way for future instruction of its kind across the Air Force.

“The Air National Guard and [other Air Force units] will soon embark on their own micro-experiment to re-language linguists,” said Garza-Avlonitis.  “The 543rd ISRG will start our second class, here, towards the end of the summer.”

The 543rd ISR Group is a force provider for national cryptologic operations and serves as Sixteenth Air Force's primary service cryptologic component to the Department of Homeland Security. The group provides air, space and cyberspace signals intelligence analysts for NSA/CSS Texas as well as Air Force National-Tactical Integration for Air Forces Southern and Air Forces Northern air operations centers. The group also supports cryptologic mission sets within North American Aerospace Defense Command, United States Northern Command, as well as United States Southern Command.