What Does an Air Force Linguist Do?

An Air Force linguist decodes information sent in other languages for the military. Linguists help foreign entities understand and translate documents, radio messages, and other forms of communication. The linguist in the Air Force is usually stationed overseas.

The Air Force linguist, also known as a cryptologic linguist, is expected to become fluent in at least one foreign language that will be useful to the government. The languages learned aren’t just the native tongues of warring nations. Some linguists study the languages of enemies’ allies, as well as the languages of countries with foreign policies that differ from their own. A linguist in the Air Force is usually required to have a variety of security clearances demonstrating that he or she can be trusted with sensitive information.

Spanish, Farsi, Russian, Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean are some of the languages learned Air Force linguists. An Air Force linguist’s work hours are flexible, as he or she is expected to translate and decode radio and written communications at all hours of the day and night. Some linguists specialize in specific communication styles, such as intelligence data, while others work as translators for non-high-security documents.

Air Force linguists must be able to operate various types of communication equipment in addition to reading, writing, and speaking designated foreign languages. One of the linguist’s responsibilities is to search for new frequencies in order to discover intelligence information. The Air Force usually provides linguist training, but candidates must have at least a high school diploma or GED, as well as some college credits, preferably with a foreign language concentration.

The Air Force linguist’s responsibilities also include operating direction-finding equipment, analyzing transcripts, and translating telephone conversations. A linguist’s primary responsibility also includes alerting higher officials to detected threats. He or she must also be able to analyze and distinguish which data should be prioritized.

Linguist training is usually provided the Air Force and begins immediately following boot camp. Linguists advance based on their rank, pay scale, and seniority. To carry out his or her duties, a linguist can be stationed anywhere on the planet. He or she can usually find work as a translator after being discharged from military service.