Airman makes career out of Turkish

  • Published
  • By Kathryn Gustafson
  • Air Force Language, Region and Culture Program Office
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on These stories and commentaries focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Lt. Col. Stephen W. Meginniss, a force support officer, has pursued language, region and culture opportunities throughout his career and even more so for the past nine years.

This pursuit has led to assignments that Meginniss said he considers the "best thing that happened in my career."

"You have to take care of yourself and take advantage of every opportunity out there," he said. "If you never apply or put your name in the hat, it won't happen. I am in a 38F position, but I found an opening in Turkey."

In 2002, while working with the recruiting squadron in Montgomery, Ala., Meginniss was asked if he was interested in becoming an exchange officer in Turkey. After one year of foreign language training at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif., Meginniss deployed to Turkey, where he served as an exchange officer in the Turkish Air Force Training Command.

"You can study all day long, but you don't get your hands deep into culture unless you can speak and understand the language," the colonel said. "Language enables you to understand the subtleties of the culture. The more in tune you are with the language, the more you'll be able to accomplish because your foreign partners won't have to turn to English, which is a benefit for the U.S. Air Force."

During his time in Turkey, Meginniss became increasingly interested in culture, which led him to pursue a master's in National Security Affairs with a concentration in Middle Eastern affairs, through the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. In order to fulfill curriculum requirements, Meginniss returned to DLIFLC for Arabic language training; however, after a brief 10 months, the Defense Intelligence Agency sent him to northern Iraq as a liaison with the Turkish Special Forces. Meginniss found his time in Iraq to be the most rewarding experience of his career.

"That was a very fulfilling job," he said. "You eat, dine and bunk with the Turkish; that is about as immersed as you will get."

Today, Meginniss is the chief for international training in the Office of Defense Cooperation in Turkey. He works with his Turkish counterparts to arrange U.S. training for Turkish military personnel.

"In this world of global engagements, you have to have security cooperation operations in place, and if you don't have people who are capable, then your engagements won't be successful," he said

"No matter your career field, maintaining language, region and culture expertise provides the Air Force a major advantage in building international partnerships," said Barbara Barger, the Air Force Senior Language Authority. "Language, region and culture capabilities increase mission effectiveness through Airmen qualified to succeed in international environments."

Meginniss believes a good career is about finding the opportunities to fulfill professional aspirations.

"Be smart about how you look at it, and don't narrow your focus," he said. "Go learn French and acquire your joint experience and work in (U.S. Africa Command), which is in Germany. Apply for the Olmsted Scholar Program or exchange officer positions -- two great programs that will provide foreign language training and then immerse you in a country. There are a lot of great assignments out there."