Linguist builds cultural bridges

Learning a language is no easy feat, but for Leading Aircraftman Zachary Delaney, it’s a challenge he’s excelled at during his career with the RAAF.

CAPTIONLeading Aircraftman Zachary Delaney (second from left), a RAAF linguist speaks to a Republic of Korea Air Force member on the flightline at Gimhae Air Base, in South Korea. Story by Flight Lieutenant Steffi Blavius.

Having studied Korean with Defence, Leading Aircraftman Delaney recently travelled with the RAAF to Gimhae in South Korea for Exercise Vigilant Defense 24.

Leading Aircraftman Delaney grew up in Albury, NSW, and never imagined his skills would help build working relationships between RAAF’s 33 Squadron and their Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) counterparts.

“I wasn’t even aware there was a position available for a Korea linguist on Exercise Vigilant Defense 24, but I am very grateful for the opportunity to enhance my language skills and integrate with the Republic of Korea Air Force,” Leading Aircraftman Delaney said.

Exercise Vigilant Defence 24 brings together large numbers of military aircraft from the ROKAF, United States, and Australia, challenging them in a series of coordinated missions.

The RAAF’s 33 Squadron provided essential air-to-air refuelling support to the exercise, with a KC-30A Multi-role tanker transport – a converted A330 airliner – refuelling fighter aircraft in mid-air.

During Exercise Vigilant Defense 24, Leading Aircraftman Delaney served as a liaison between the RAAF maintenance crew and the ROKAF ground crew.

His linguistic skills not only facilitate effective communication for 33 Squadron to complete its mission, but also foster cooperation between the two military forces.

Many of the ROKAF members already speak basic English and are eager to practise their language skills with their Australian counterparts.

Leading Aircraftman Delaney’s choice to learn Korean was rooted in his interest in Korea’s culture and history.

He wanted to challenge himself by mastering this difficult language while providing a valuable capability to Defence.

“Korea has a fascinating military history and the current geopolitical climate makes learning Korean more important now than ever,” he said.

To achieve proficiency in Korean, Leading Aircraftman Delaney spent one year posted to the Defence Force School of Languages.

Their classes consisted of various activities including classroom learning, one-on-one speaking and listening sessions, and lessons with native Korean speakers.

Exercises like Vigilant Defense are intended to enhance interoperability between partner nations to achieve shared strategic objectives, building relationships at the individual level as well as between the military services.

Speaking the same language however is an essential part of this relationship building.

“The linguist skill is important to the RAAF and ADF as it allows us to integrate with our military allies, achieve strategic objectives and demonstrate our willingness to understand and assist our partners during times of peace and times of conflict,” said Leading Aircraftman Delaney.

Despite his rigorous schedule, Leading Aircraftman Delaney continues to study Korean regularly and enjoys watching K-dramas as a fun way to increase his language competency and comprehension.

When he is not providing linguistic skills, Leading Aircraft Delaney serves as an air intelligence analyst – a role he hopes will continue opening him to opportunities to grow, travel and improve his skills.

Leading Aircraftman Delaney encourages others to embark on the journey to become a qualified linguist.

“I would recommend learning a language to anyone who wants to enhance their skillset, learn about a foreign culture, challenge themselves and be part of a small group of Defence members fortunate enough to earn this exceptionally unique capability,” he said.





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