News & Events

DLIELC Pilots Virtual Training Team Program with Puerto Rico

By Capt. Kayshel Trudell , Defense Language Institute English Language Center - Published August 03, 2020
The Defense Language Institute English Language Center hosts a group discussion between instructors and cadets during a class conducted over Zoom July, 2020. This Virtual Training Team initiative is in its piloting stage and may prove to provide U.S. partners across the globe a viable hybrid distance learning option.
Armed with a copy of the American Language Course text, a cadet participates in an online class facilitated by a Defense Language Institute English Language Center Virtual Training Team July, 2020. Virtual Training Teams are in the piloting stages but may prove to provide U.S. partners across the globe a viable hybrid distance learning option.
Jeff Moore, a 332nd Training Squadron instructor, teaches a class from his home office as part of a virtual training team program that the Defense Language Institute English Language Center is piloting July, 2020. The VTT program is in the piloting stages but may prove to provide U.S. partners across the globe a viable hybrid distance learning option.


To continue partner nation support across combatant commands and execute the global security cooperation mission amidst a global pandemic the Defense Language Institute English Language Center piloted a one-week virtual training team program with Puerto Rico from right here in Military City USA, July 2020. This VTT trail is a virtual version of DLIELC's mobile training team program lead by the International Nonresident Flight, 637th International Support Squadron.

At the start of COVID-19, DLIELC transitioned from a completely in-person schoolhouse to a fully capable distance learning facility in two weeks. VTT is yet another success story of DLIELC’s creativity and ability to adapt to accomplish the mission.

“Today’s multidimensional-threat environment is a catalyst for innovative thinking and forward progress,” said Col. Kouji Gillis, DLIELC commander. “The goal of this pilot was to test our current capabilities and determine the potential challenges of delivering English Language instruction in a virtual setting, a capability that was previously accomplished through deployment of our Mobile Training Teams.”

DLIELC’s MTT mission paused in order to protect the health and safety of its instructors and the members located at deployment location. Although there are no current plans to make this a permanent part of DLIELC curriculum, this pilot provided a great test of DLIELC technological reach and capability.

Puerto Rico was selected for this virtual language learning test because it is a geographically separated environment that is home to an existing DLIELC Language Training Detachment. Five instructors from DLIELC’s 332nd Training Support Squadron volunteered to support INF’s effort to instruct 26 students in the Puerto Rico’s U.S. Army Cadet Summer English Program.

“This truly was a collaborative effort across DLIELC and service branches,” said Gillis.

DLIELC instructors spent a week collaborating with the LTD instructors stationed in Puerto Rico to plan effective distance lessons that correlated with on-the-ground instruction. A week later, resident instructors began their roles as primary instructors for three classes of cadets using online platforms including Zoom, Google Classroom, Blackboard, and others.

After evaluation of the feedback provided by instructors and students, INF was able to make recommendations on best practices for development of future VTT capabilities. Currently, DLIELC is working to identify the other candidates and student with appropriate English language training needs.

“Virtual Training Teams are still in the piloting stages but may be a viable option for how to support our partner nations across the globe long term,” said Gillis. “This pilot test shows a viable hybrid distance learning option and offers workable solutions for continued safe operations in a COVID environment.”

Originally posted by: 37th TRW

Air Force’s inaugural ECHO Flight Airmen share their experiences

By Rachel Kersey, 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force basic training trainee Alexie Delgado Berrios goes through the Leadership Reaction Course June 9 at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Annex, Texas. Delgado Berrios is part of the Air Force version of the Defense Language Institute English Language Center Army Echo Company program. In March 2020, the 37th Training Wing began a beta test for an Air Force version of the program which has been in existence since 1975.

U.S. Air Force basic training trainee Jose Vasquez-Vera goes through the Leadership Reaction Course June 9 at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Annex, Texas. Vasquez-Vera is part of the Air Force version of the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, or DLIELC, Army Echo Company program. In March 2020, the 37th Training Wing began a beta test for an Air Force version of the program which has been in existence since 1975.

U.S. Air Force basic training trainee Jose Vasquez-Vera goes through the Leadership Reaction Course June 9 at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Annex. Vasquez-Vera is part of the Air Force version of the Defense Language Institute English Language Center Army Echo Company program.


There are many reasons why someone might want to join the United States Air Force.

“I decided to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps,” said Airman Alexander Piniero Tulier.

“I wanted to be my own person, and challenge myself, and see what I was capable of,” said Airman Ruben Valentin Mendez.

“I wanted to serve my country and defend it,” said Airman 1st Class Alexie Delgado Berrios.

Along with seven others, these three Airmen graduated June 18 from Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The 10 men were part of the Defense Language Institute English Language Center’s first-ever ECHO Flight beta test, a replica of the U.S. Army ECHO Company program which has been carried out by DLIELC since 1975. ECHO flight’s mission was to provide English-language training and cultural immersion to enable anyone who would like to serve in the Air Force to do so effectively.

“Language shouldn’t be a barrier to joining our ranks,” said Col. Kouji Gillis, DLIELC commandant and 637th Training Group commander. “Echo Flight removes that barrier and allows the Air Force to tap into individuals that can go on to be in much-needed career fields, like linguistics.”

ECHO Flight’s trainees arrived at JBSA-Lackland March 24, having heard about the program from recruiters in their hometowns. After a 14-day restriction of movement to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the students began their English-language training April 6.

The program drew primarily native Spanish speakers from all over Puerto Rico. Represented were students from Moca on the west to San Juan on the east and towns in between and further out. There was also a trainee from South Korea.

Many came from challenging situations, hoping to better themselves and their lives.

“I really wanted more opportunities that I could not have in Puerto Rico,” said Airman 1st Class Eliezer Hernandez Vidal. “I was working in bad places even with a bachelor's degree. Before the Air Force, my life was boring and monotonous, every day doing the same thing. I was tired of that life.”

After six weeks of instruction, during which the trainees had lessons on grammar, vocabulary, reading, speaking, pronunciation and other essentials, they graduated May 14 and were sent to BMT with the other new recruits. BMT is always challenging, but ECHO Flight students had a leg up on their fellow airmen: they had just gone through training in a similar environment

The Military Training Instructors taught us things from BMT,” Hernandez Vidal said. “We knew everything and could help our flight with tips on the experience.”

Now, after graduating, the new Airmen hope to enter a variety of careers.

Piniero-Tulier hopes for personnel. Airman 1st Class Gabriel Irizarry will work in medical logistics. Vasquez Vera will be a dental assistant. Others will be in materials management, client systems, aircraft metals technology, and more.

Gillis said he hopes the program can continue forward to provide opportunities for more qualified individuals to join the U.S. Air Force or Space Force.

The consensus among the students is that ECHO Flight is a great program to do just that because of encouraging and attentive teachers, however, the trainees have to be willing to work hard.

Valentin Mendez said the program will teach people English, but their fluency and proficiency depend on how much effort they are willing to put into it.

It seems, though, that for hard workers, ECHO Flight can be a pathway for a really satisfying life.

“The teachers were excellent in explaining details about the rules of English,” said Airman 1st Class Norman Muniz Vaquer. “I would recommend it to every non-English speaker.”

“This will help a lot of people in Puerto Rico and around the world,” Hernandez Vidal said. “This opportunity is a dream come true.”

Originally posted by: 37th TRW

DLIELC Field Studies Program shares American culture with partner nations

The USS Lexington Aircraft carrier seen docked during a tour to Corpus Christi. DLIELC offers over 200 tours a year to a wide variety of locations.

Photo by Spencer Berry

A group of DLIELC students on a tour to the San Antonio stock show. These students represent four different countries

Photo by Annette Janetzke


Beyond the technical objectives of military training that many may think of when visualizing the armed services, a goal of the U.S. is to immerse our international allies and partners to the “American way of life”.

The Defense Language Institute English Language Center contributes to this immensely through its English language training for partner nation military members around the globe and through other programs outside the classroom as well.

Every year the DoD hosts thousands of international partners who train in the United States to build military interoperability here at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Each student attending a formal course in the United States under the Security Assistance and other related programs is given the opportunity to participate in the DoD Field Studies Program. The objective is to provide a "real life" view of U.S. society, institutions, and goals, outside the classroom.

To meet this objective, DLIELC’s premier FSP will continue to give our partners the opportunity to experience our history, culture and story first hand.

DLIELC is home to the largest FSP. This program is nested in the 637th International Support Squadron. They give over 200 tours a year to students at the schoolhouse. The FSP focuses on immersing students in American culture and introducing them to American ways of life. They do this through events on campus, day tours, overnight tours, and linking students with a host family via the American Members of International Goodwill to Others (AMIGO) program. It is vital during these times that DLIELC uphold not only the instruction portion of their mission, but also cultural immersion to our partner nations—in many cases, DLIELC is a student’s first experience with the United States of America!

The FSP at DLIELC has been working hard to keep students, staff and AMIGOs connected during these distant times. Through virtual tours offered online, DLIELC FSP has begun to issue daily newsletters that takes students to places throughout Texas. For example, FSP hosted virtual tours of the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas Capital in Austin, LBJ Ranch and the San Antonio Riverwalk. In the newsletter, FSP also shared info items on things like Longhorn cattle and bluebonnets.

This enabled FSP to extend their mission to the socially distanced students to be able to ‘tour’ places through the internet and get a dose of American culture. Due to these efforts, students that are thousands of miles from home are still given a FSP experience, kept in the loop of what was going on in DLI, and much more. It is the same essential mission delivered in a different way!

The FSP is in accordance with DoD Instruction 5410.17.

These are times of generosity and support to our international students

MSgt Vielman displays one of the mask she hand sewed and donated to DLI for the international students.

Photo by MSgt Vielman

Displaying the masks volunteers made is Daisy Whisenant and Sgt. Mutarambirwa, from Rwanda. He received his mask earlier in the week.

Photo by Annette Janetzke

Alice Vida displays one of her many handmade mask she donated for the DLI students

Photo by Alice Vida

And Ecuadorian student, Sergeant Miguel Mesias Anaguano Gualoto enjoyed discussing the American culture and presenting his culture to Daisy Whisenant

Photo by Annette Janetzke

MSgt Vielman’s neatly packaged masks with message.

Photo by MSgt Vielman


When our AMIGO Program Manager, Dan Vega, sent out a notice to all AMIGO sponsors for help with providing masks for international students at DLI, he received several generous responses to help.

Master Sergeant Jeanett Vielman, an active duty military member at JBSA Lackland, stated her motivation to help with the homemade masks was, “my love and appreciation for DLI and its mission. I wanted to make something special for the students to show them how special they are and how happy I am to have them here in San Antonio.” She’s on duty 24/7, she makes time in the evenings after leaving work and continues to sew masks on the weekends. She stated, “I’m so happy I can do something for DLI students. Their journey here in San Antonio is affected at the moment due to this virus, but love and hospitality from us can have a positive impact.”

AMIGO Sponsor, Daisy Whisenant, saw the need and started searching various avenues. She found a group of craft ladies who donated one mask to low income schools for every one purchased. She decided to purchase $150 worth of masks for the first run since it was for an opportunity to assist our students. Now all the additional masks she’s provided are donated. Most are from a doctor’s wife, who likes to sew.

Whisenant said, “I miss our dinner party celebrations of the students’ birthdays and graduations immensely during this time of limitations on gatherings. They’re so far from home, and I want them to know we care and to know they have friends in the U.S. When Dan sent out a request for facemasks, I felt the masks would allow more opportunity for the DLI students to enjoy the company of others during this period.”

While there at DLI delivering masks on one of her two visits, she met some students and concluded, “I found it fun visiting with DLI students! I’m so happy to be of help to these precious guests from all over the world, to let them practice their English and enjoy American friendship.” One student arrived at the Operations Front Desk and began talking to Whisenant. Sergeant Jean Damascene Mutarambirwa from Rwanda, had received a mask on Monday.

Another AMIGO Sponsor, Alice Vida, who heard the call and stepped up to provide masks for the DLI students. She is a volunteer with a charity called Threads of Love. This group of volunteers make items for premature infants in intensive care.

After the sewing headquarters were closed to abide with the Stay at Home request, the sewers were asked to make cover masks for the nurses and doctors for the hospitals they supply with TOL items. Her church ladies decided to sew the masks at home.

Vide said, “We continue to do this but we are now sewing masks for policemen, firemen, and EMS. So we went from sewing masks with ties to sewing masks with elastic.

“I had fabric pieces that I washed and cut in rectangles. This is the fabric used for the 40 masks I made for DLI. I was happy to provide the masks for students to allow them to have mobility around the base. Since I had recent experience making masks, I knew I could make some masks while I was in place at home.”

Vida has connections with both NYC and DLI’s mission of teaching. Some of her background--she studied fashion design and worked in that field in NYC. She moved south, sewed in factories, earned two degrees, and became a secondary teacher for English, French, and History and retired after teaching 34 years. She said, “I learned to sew on my grandmother’s Singer treadle machine 65 years ago.”

DLI has received 160 homemade donated masks from AMIGO Sponsors. These volunteers are appreciated for their donations for those in need. What a tribute to the generosity of American citizens right here in San Antonio helping those students DLI has from throughout the world.

DLIELC hosts first female Lebanese air traffic controller

Airman Maria Abou Daher Maalouf from the Lebanese Air Force is the first female air traffic controller from her country to attend the Defense Language Institute English Language Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for English language training.

Courtesy Photo


Airman Maria Abou Daher Maalouf from the Lebanese Air Force is the first female air traffic controller from her country to attend the Defense Language Institute English Language Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for English language training.

Her road to this achievement began with her studying English when she was around seven years old.

“I always preferred it to French, knowing that it was my third language,” Maalouf said. “In those years, I was, and still am, a Disney fan, so maybe that’s what piqued my interest.”

Before joining the Lebanese Air Force, or Al Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Lubnaniyya, she studied for three years to be a teacher of French, biology, math and Arabic and attained her bachelor’s degree in pre-school and primary education. With that degree, she ended up teaching English in a French-educating school to children in kindergarten and grades one, two and three.

Leaving her teaching career, she joined the Air Force out of loyalty to her country and the military. She did not seek to become an air traffic controller but said it found her.

“To be honest, when I joined the Air Force, I had never thought about my specialty,” Maalouf said.

After testing for her qualifications, the test results led to this challenging field.

“My colonel saw my results and advised me that this is the best career for me to be in,” she said. “His trust in me was my biggest motivation. Additionally, my parents’ support and belief that I can do it stimulated me to do my best and to make them proud of me.”

At 23 years old, Maalouf has never flown an aircraft, but has been a passenger in a helicopter and felt the stress the two pilots were under.

“That experience helped me in my job because now I can relate to their situation,” she said. “Now I can see their maneuvers from the tower and understand their decisions and know that flying a helicopter is very risky.”

When asked if she considered the risk to her health, she stated, “I did some research just to have an idea of it. All over the Internet, it states that being an ATC is one of the most stressful jobs worldwide. Believe it or not, when I read this, I couldn’t wait to start my course. I love stress!”

She is well aware that her decisions as an ATC are a matter of life or death.

“It can really affect your health in the long term, but there are always ways to handle stress,” Maalouf said. “ The best way to help you overcome your tiredness, after a long day at work, is the satisfaction you feel when you love your profession, knowing you’re good at it, and thanking God you ended your day without anyone dying -- ‘never on my shift!’”

She has been an ATC for one year and always keeps in mind each word she pronounces is a matter of life or death. However, she is always careful and wide awake on the job. Her determination is also witnessed in the classroom environment by her classmates who support her completely.

“Maalouf is a dedicated student and a natural leader,” said Joseph Leishman, one of her ESL instructors. “As an airman air traffic controller, she is very confident while interacting with officers in class who are more experienced in aviation than she is. It has been an honor working with her.”

Maalouf said her long-range career plans are “up in the air.”

“The future is ahead of us. I can’t tell you about 10 years from now, but the first step is knowing more and more and improving my aviation knowledge,” she said. “That’s why I’m here at DLIELC and going next to Fort Rucker, Alabama, hoping to be one of the best, or at least doing my best to be an air traffic controller.”

Her follow-on training is only for “choppers” and with all English-speaking students, which she is looking forward to. She prefers “choppers,” but in Lebanon, she will be working with all types of aircraft.

Life has presented her with many choices and she is happy with each avenue she has selected. Considering the roads presented to her and her choices, she regrets nothing.

“It’s been fabulous. Give me the stress. I feel I can handle it,” Maalouf said.

All her family, including her nieces and nephews, have totally supported her in all of her choices.

“I can never thank them enough. I am what I am today because of them. They always give me the support I need and a shoulder to cry on,” she said. “I will do my best to thank them for what they did for me. I’m ready to do anything just to make them proud of me. That’s why I do what I’m doing.”

She keeps in constant contact with her family, and they told her, “Although you are on the other side of the globe, we see you more on video live now than we did at home.”

Maalouf arrived at DLIELC Dec. 17, 2019, and experienced two weeks of jet lag and homesickness, but she said, “I’m good now.”

She graduated March 6 from the 9-week Specialized English Aviation, Communicate, Navigate course, and is attending training at Fort Rucker until July 20.

“I can’t wait for this next course. I’m so excited for it to begin,” Maalouf said. “And then I look forward to finishing my course at Fort Rucker and going back to my country and family.”

She has taken about eight 637th International Support Squadron Field Studies Program trips because she was curious about San Antonio and wanted to learn its culture. Now she loves San Antonio and Dallas.

“Somehow it reminds me of my country,” Maalouf said. “It is similar in that you feel like the people you meet have known you forever. We are used to this kindness and generosity back home. I love Texas.”

A comment from her Specialized English Instructor, Angie Stewart, sums up her gusto for her training and career.

“I had the pleasure of teaching Maalouf in M302 Communicate. In this module, our objective is to go over Air Traffic Control phraseology,” Stewart said. “Experiencing the class with her was fun and quite insightful as she was willing to share her knowledge and experiences as an ATC in Lebanon. Her excitement in sharing was contagious, as soon as she would start talking, others would jump in on the conversation about radio communication. I was grateful to have had her in class.”


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