French NATO linguist visits the 512th Airflift Wing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Damien Taylor
  • 512th Airlift Wing
Air Force Maj. Amy Wilkins, a reservist assigned to the 512th Airlift Wing, reconnected with her Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officer Language Academy instructor Sept. 7, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.   

The NATO language academy, known as CLA, is a two-week course that teaches English and French as a second language. Students are provided an essential and indispensable tool to carry out international NATO business - the ability to communicate in one of NATO's two official languages, according to the school’s website.

Wilkins is one of only two Air Force Reserve applicants accepted to take the course, and French Marine Col. Stanislas Rene Marie de Magnien de Magnienville was the director of CLA in July during her time at the language academy in Gdynia, Poland. The two kept in touch after the course, discovering they both lived in New York City not far from each other.

Wilkins said Magnienville expressed interest in coming to Dover, so she coordinated his visit and brought him to Dover AFB for a tour.

Magnienville toured the maintenance group’s Isochronal Inspection Dock, the flightline, a C-17 Globemaster III and a C-5M Super Galaxy. He and Wilkins discussed similarities and differences between the French and U.S. active-duty and reserve services.

Magnienville said he was astounded by what the reservists do at Dover AFB and described his visit as an incredible one.

“There is no word,” he said. “It’s fascinating. It’s impressive. I’ve never been on the top of a C-5. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”  

Magnienville said he took the tour to heart, and soldiers need to open their minds and learn more about the culture of other countries’ military branches, because we live in a world of multinational operations. As the CLA director, he added he observes interactions between service members from different countries and sees the significance of building on those relationships.

“There are two aspects of the CLA training,” said Magnienville. “One is purely language, the linguistic aspect. The second is even more important. It’s the rubbing of shoulders with people from different frames of minds, different cultures and different countries.”

Wilkins nodded at Magnienville’s words.

“Learning French and visiting Polish attractions were two excellent reasons to love this course,” said Wilkins. “But, the third reason was the opportunity to interact with military personnel from other countries. We learned about each others’ cultures, our countries’ similarities and differences and compared the military structures and roles.”

Wilkins said, in her 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, she’d never had the opportunity to interact with others like in the CLA setting. The students lived together; they ate together and learned together. She added, she would never forget the lasting relationships that came from her time at CLA and she thoroughly enjoyed showing Magnienville the base.

Magnienville said, the hope to create some traction and build relationships with the intent of enrolling more American students into CLA inspired his visit to Dover.

“France and the U.S. are in theater operations together,” said Magnienville. “We are together in the fight against terrorism. In order to continue doing that, we need Americans speaking French, and French people speaking English.”

He added, he wants to expand CLA to more countries with NATO partnerships and that the Reserve knowledge, experience and dedication to the 512th AW mission emboldened his efforts.

“I’m amazed by the reservists’ level of professionalism,” said Magnienville. “You can feel there is fire in their bellies, and that makes a hell of a difference.”