Gateway to America -- U.S. Air Force English Language Beta Test Advances Despite COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Defense Language Institute English Language Center
  • Defense Language Institute English Language Center

In March 2020, the 37th Training Wing began a beta test for an Air Force version of the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) Army Echo Company program which has been in existence since 1975. In partnership with Air Force Recruiting Service, this beta test is now in the execution phase. The goal is to show that an English language barrier is not a roadblock for eligible recruits interested in joining the United States Air Force. This is all credited to the unique language training capability DLIELC will provide them prior to the start of Basic Military Training (BMT) at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.      

On March 24, 10 USAF trainees arrived on JBSA-Lackland eager to refine their English speaking skills and begin their journey as members of the first-ever Air Force Echo Flight.  Despite the beta test starting during the COVID-19 pandemic, DLIELC was able to safely navigate this groundbreaking initiative. Upon arrival, healthcare professionals monitored the trainees alongside their BMT counterparts during a 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) period used to prevent potential spread of the virus.

At the completion of ROM, trainees began English language training via distance learning at the 737th Training Support Squadron’s learning laboratory. Although not actually in the 7.5-week Basic Military Training pipeline, Military Training Instructors are providing assistance to prepare and acclimate them into BMT. 

Initially, Echo Flight trainees took an English Comprehension Level (ECL) exam to determine their skill level, which allowed DLIELC staff to tailor the learning environment and curriculum for optimal efficiency. Based on their ECL exam results, the DLIELC staff integrated the trainees into distance learning classrooms “alongside” their Army Echo Company teammates. 

Echo Flight trainees recently took their second ECL exam to determine the increase in their English skills and to qualify for transition to BMT.  This week, the trainees will be taking a second ASVAB test to determine if English comprehension changes correlate to ASVAB score changes.  With improvement, these trainees may qualify for additional AFSCs including critical needs such as linguists.

If adopted permanently, the Air Force Echo Flight program would provide an even more diverse group of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the opportunity to serve their country as Airmen in critical mission areas. Assessing foreign-born native language speakers with desired skill-sets and backgrounds will introduce innovative and enriching perspectives never before available to the Air Force.

Follow the  DLIELC Facebook Page for updates on Echo Flight trainees as they progress through their English language training and continue on to Air Force Basic Military Training.

To learn more about the initiatives taking place as DLIELC visit  

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