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08/13/2012
Airman continues family military tradition through language study
MONTEREY, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Christian Miltersen not only won a recent Chinese speech contest, sits at the top of his Chinese class at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, and holds a 4.0 GPA, he is also fourth generation military, and second generation linguist.

Christian always had an interest in language, and knows bits of French, German, and Russian, but perhaps one of his biggest language inspirations was to follow in the footsteps of his father, Robert Miltersen, who graduated from DLIFLC's Chinese Basic Course in 1994.

Robert Miltersen initially came to DLIFLC in 1989 to study Russian, along with his soon-to-be wife Sheila, but both returned in 1994 following the end of the Cold War to learn Chinese. After graduation and follow-on training, Robert and Sheila were assigned to Kadena Air Base, Japan, and from there moved to Beijing, where Robert was assigned as the Air Force Operations non-commissioned officer, U.S. Defense Attache's Office, U.S. Embassy to China.

"The highlight of my Beijing tour was that I was involved in the crisis in Hainan, China, when our US Navy EP-3 aircraft collided mid-air with a Chinese J-8 fighter aircraft during routine mission operations... The Chinese held our crew for several weeks; I was dispatched to the island along with our Defense Attache, Gen. Neal Sealock, and took part in negotiations to procure the release of the crew," said Miltersen.

In 2005, Miltersen and his family returned from numerous overseas tours to DLIFLC where he taught as a military language instructor before retiring in 2009 as Chief MLI for the Asian I school.

After turning in his uniform, Miltersen was hired by DLI for the civilian position of South-Central Regional LTD Director, and he moved from the Presidio of Monterey to Alabama. In the meantime, Christian stayed behind to graduate from Seaside High School, and carried on the Miltersen name by enlisting in spring of 2011.

"[Language] was always something I was interested in and something that felt like it was easy for me to pick up. It sort of clicked with everybody that I have all these interests in languages and could do this as a job and could go off and join the military and be independent and it could be a full-time career," said Christian.  

Because Christian had lived in China with his family from age eight to eleven and he had attended the International School of Beijing for three years, his decision to study Chinese made the most sense. However, Christian hardly learned any Chinese while in Beijing because his family lived in a compound for diplomats, and he went to an English-speaking school.

"I guess I'm glad I don't have too much of an advantage. People in my class already think I do," said Miltersen.

Now at DLIFLC, Christian enjoys his independence, but appreciates the consistent structure of classes.

"Just the intensity that's provided here, as opposed to taking an hour a day in high school for an elective course, it allows you to really quickly build a foundation that you can go off of. So I took two years in high school, but what a month would do here just completely overshadows anything you could achieve in that timeframe [at a regular university]," said Miltersen.

In April of this year, Christian competed in the Chinese Language Teachers Association of California's 37th Mandarin Speech Contest and received first place at the College/University level for students with no prior background or very limited experience in Chinese of any dialect. Another testament to Miltersen's efforts at DLIFLC was his recent selection to go on an immersion to Beijing, along with the other top students in his class. The group stayed in Beijing for six weeks, and studied at a university to enhance their Mandarin skills.

"With the sort of different style, and different aspect of learning the language, I think that mixed with the foundation that the course at DLI gives, it was more comprehensive; I feel like I improved a lot from what I learned there," said Miltersen.

While in Beijing, Miltersen and his immersion group toured the city and visited sites like the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven, much of which he said felt familiar from when he was a child, especially the smell of the city, of which he said, "brought me back to when I lived there before."

Story and Photo Credits:

Story by: Devon Swanson, Strategic Communications

Photo 1: Airman 1st Class Christian Miltersen and Robert Miltersen in front of the Asian I school at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. (U.S. Army photo by Brian Lamar)

Photo 2: Airman 1st Class Christian Miltersen while at the Great Wall of China during his recent immersion overseas. (Courtesy photo)
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