Airman revisits home country with AF LEAP

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson and Devin Doskey
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

He speaks Ukrainian, Russian and English fluently, possesses an undergraduate degree in political science and international studies with a minor in history, and has a master’s degree in public international affairs with a focus in national security.

2nd Lt. Nazariy Melnychuk, 10th Missile Squadron Intercontinental Ballistic Missile combat crew member, grew up in Kolomyia, Ukraine. From the mountains to small-town living, Melnychuk sees similarities between Great Falls and his hometown.

“In Kolomyia, everyone knew each other,” said Melnychuk. “We lived close to the mountains, so I got to do a lot of berry picking and hiking, which is big in Ukraine.”

His family moved from Ukraine to Brooklyn, New York when Melnychuk was 13 years old.

“My dad was an anesthesiologist and my mom was a pediatrician,” he said. “They didn’t make a lot of money and were barely making ends meet.

“Part of the reason we moved was for financial reasons,” he continued. “The other part of it was a future for me and my brother. I wouldn’t be doing what I do every day if my parents hadn’t done what they did to move us here.”

Melnychuk knew from a young age what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“My whole life I wanted to be in the military” he said. “I am very fortunate to be in the Air Force and be a missileer.”

Melnychuk has taken advantage of the benefits the Air Force offers and continues to look for more ways to enhance his career.
“I want to get my PHD and focus on my career progression,” said Melnychuk. “I want to establish myself as an expert in my career field, while helping achieve the Air Force mission.”

Melnychuk pursued the Language Enabled Airman Program shortly after commissioning in the Air Force.

“I was told about the program during my job training,” said Melnychuk. “I felt, with my skillset, I could do more for the Air Force.”

LEAP is a career-spanning program aimed to sustain and improve Airmen's language and cultural capabilities. Managed by the Air Force Culture and Language Center, the program seeks to develop cross-culturally competent leaders who can meet Air Force global mission requirements.

Participation in LEAP is voluntary and available for Active Duty officers, enlisted Airmen and select Reserve officers. To become a LEAP scholar, Airmen must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language specified on the Air Force Strategic Language List, receive endorsement from their unit commander and compete via a board process. Selection is based on applicants’ existing language proficiency, potential to achieve higher levels of language proficiency and Air Force language requirements.

“I was accepted into the program about six months after I commissioned,” said Melnychuk. “I speak Ukrainian and Russian fluently and was accepted into the program specifically for Ukrainian.”

LEAP grows and maintains Airmen via a two-part system of recurring online training and periodic immersions. Part I is an online class and Part II is a Language Intensive Training Event. The LITE includes a three to four-week temporary duty assignment in a respective native-speaking country.

Melnychuk was able to fulfill his LITE requirement while TDY in Ukraine.

Melnychuk was assigned to U.S. European Command and served as a translator for EUCOM senior advisors in partnership with the Ukrainian military and the National Defense University of Ukraine.

“We briefed Ukrainian officers on International Ammunition Technical Guides,” said Melnychuk. “IATG is a United Nations frame of reference to achieve and demonstrate effective levels of safety and security of ammunition stockpiles.”

The TDY also helped Ukraine reach North Atlantic Treaty Organization standards.

“The Ukrainian military requested EUCOM support because there is a program established by the EUCOM commander for cooperation with the countries that aren’t NATO members but are NATO partners, such as Ukraine,” said Melnychuk. “Through this program, the Ukraine military requested advisors to come provide support to help Ukraine reach the NATO standard.”

NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defense and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.

As a partner country, Ukraine has made significant contributions to creating and supporting peace, having participated in all NATO peace support operations to date.

Melnychuk was grateful for the opportunity to participate in LEAP and visit his home country again, even for a short time.

“LEAP is an excellent program; it gives Airmen the chance to travel, support the mission and maintain our language skills,” said Melnychuk. “Personally, as a missileer, it has given me a great opportunity to go out and see what the Air Force does outside of missiles.”