by Airman 1st Class Hailey Davis
18th Wing Public Affairs
5/22/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- A
white-board depicts the characters of a foreign language as Tech. Sgt.
David Jang, 390th Intelligence Squadron airborne cryptologic language
analyst, briefs other Korean linguists during a training session at the
Kadena Language Learning Center.
Jang recently won the 2012 Language Professional of the Year Award at
the Air Force level, and was the runner-up for the same award at the
Department of Defense level.
"The Language Professional of the Year Award is (awarded to) the most
well-rounded linguist we have in the Air Force culturally and language
wise," said Lt. Col. Regan McClurkin, 390th IS commander. "He scores
100s on his physical training tests successively, excels at language and
everything he does, but he is also extremely humble."
McClurkin explained the normal path of a linguist is for them to take
the Defense Language Aptitude Battery, which consists of analyzing a
made-up language to see if they understand a given rule set and can
Scores received on the DLAB are used to screen people who appear to have
an ability to quickly sort out rules of a language and give them an
opportunity to go to the Defense Language Institute to learn a foreign
However, Jang bypassed DLI because his native language is Korean. He
moved to Seoul, Korea, when he was 5 years old and spent 14 years
learning the language and the culture.
After DLI, the second step for linguists is getting out and applying
their skills to their unit and Air Force mission in a professional
manner, said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Weinandt, 390th IS superintendent.
After being accepted to cross-train, Jang went straight to intelligence
training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, followed by survival and
Being able to head straight to the operational line put Jang one step above other language professionals.
"I'd rather be on the operational line using my language than sitting in
a classroom learning something I already knew," Jang said. "The fact
that I serve the country by doing something that I've been doing on a
daily basis since I was young and utilize that skill set makes it very
Although he learned English a year before he joined the Air Force,
learning a new language has given him the opportunity to help other
linguists who struggle with doing the same.
The experience of learning English, which was a foreign language for
Jang, has been able to help him understand what his students go through,
said Jeff Bagwell, Kadena Language Learning Center command language
"Since he's got such a deep-rooted knowledge of the Korean Language, he
helps out our linguists who struggle with maintaining a required level
of proficiency," Bagwell added.
McClurkin, Weinandt and Bagwell all said that Jang's dedication to
professionalism and language, excellence in all he does, and his ability
to put in extra hours to help other linguists maintain proficiency in
their language are what stood out and made him a candidate for this
"What I'd like people to know about him is the extra effort that he's
put in; he has an ability that we needed and he was exceptional at his
own job, but he didn't just rest at being exceptional at his job,"
Weinandt said. "He makes it a point to help the rest of the unit, which
helps the unit mission and the Air Force mission (as a whole)."
Weinandt said Jang feels doing his job is doing everything
exceptionally. Bagwell also said Jang works extra hours and finds time
in his schedule to work with the other Korean linguists on Kadena.
"When (Jang) won at the (55th Wing) level, he was overwhelmed and didn't
expect it," McClurkin said. "When he won at the Air Combat Command
level, he was even more overwhelmed and when I announced that he won at
the Air Force level, he was speechless."
Jang explained when his leadership brought up the idea of submitting him for the award, he initially turned it down.
"There are a lot of deserving language professionals in the Air Force
and I thought I didn't deserve (winning the award) and wouldn't be
competitive enough," Jang said. "Like every other professional in the
Air Force, I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and giving my best in my
He added when he won at the ACC level, he thought it would be the final
win due to other linguists at the major command level being more engaged
in real-world missions on a daily basis.
"It was great to feel that my leadership thought so highly of me," Jang
said. "I'm humbled to say the least, but at the same time it gave me a
sense of further commitment as an appreciation to people who endorsed
me. I take this as a cue that I should strive for further excellence,
and continue to contribute what I can provide to the Air Force and our