Journey of Transformation: Airman’s Linguistic Odyssey

by | Jan 18, 2024 | News

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Kocurek, United States Air Force

Located in the heart of the American Southwest, where the desert winds carry tales of valor and resilience, Alexandra Kocurek has forged her path with unwavering dedication, faith and a relentless commitment to aiding those in need.

United States Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexandra Kocurek’s journey is a shining example of dedication and brilliance that comes from the American Southwest. Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Kocurek’s Christian upbringing ingrained in her the values of discipline and faith, which seamlessly translated to her service in the Air Force.

“I had a very good upbringing,” she begins with a warm smile. “I grew up in a Christian household, so discipline and strictness were no issue for me [when I joined] the military, fortunately. I wouldn’t say we were sheltered, but it instilled a lot of values in me — discipline, strictness and knowing the difference between right and wrong. I’m definitely fortunate and thankful for all of those opportunities.”

In high school, Kocurek participation in academics, part-time work and sports underscored the importance of teamwork and self-discipline. She noted, “Sports really made a difference in my life, particularly in understanding the value of being part of a team.”

It was a singular transformative mission to Ecuador during her high school senior year that Kocurek’s unknowing journey into military service would begin. Her love for the Spanish language and a deep connection with a fellow traveler ignited a profound calling. “There was a girl who’d had cancer growing up,” she recalled. “And after she’d beaten it, she wrote a book about self-healing. I thought it would be beneficial to the people we were there to help, so I wanted to translate it into Spanish.”

This is when Kocurek experienced a desire to become a conduit for helping people from every corner of the globe. “That was the moment I felt called to be a translator. To help people communicate better with one another. So that is initially what started all of this,” she explained. “But I wasn’t sure how.”

While Kocurek originally planned to attend Grand Canyon University for a business degree, her interests shifted when her aunt mentioned a friend’s career in either “intelligence or translation” within the Air Force, which led Kocurek to consider the military as a gateway to her aspirations. She was particularly keen to learn Russian, considering the ease of learning multiple Slavic languages once one is mastered.

Ninth Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer mechanics take selfies as a B-1B flies overhead at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 21, 2020

Narrowly missing the cut by one point on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery test, Kocurek had to wait for another chance, leading her to be assigned to the Air Force Specialty Code of General Maintenance. Her determination unwavering, Kocurek excelled as a crew chief and then a maintenance training instructor on the B1-B Lancer aircraft. “I absolutely loved that job and was committed to being the best I could be,” she affirmed.

But when the opportunity arose, Kocurek immediately applied to cross-train and was accepted into the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. “I believe DLI is exceptional,” she stated.

While recognizing that graduating from DLIFLC is just the first step, Kocurek understands that much of the practical knowledge needed to master her skills will come from “doing her job” out in the field. She looks forward to advanced training in the future, aiming to attain the profound cultural understanding and language skills required to become the best in her trade and, subsequently, a master linguist.

Kocurek’s dedication has also seen her complete a degree in International Relations preparing her for the possibility of working her dream job with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. “With DTRA, you utilize those language skills to make sure everybody’s following the rules of certain treaties, keeping people safe, and that’s what I want to do,” she explained.

As Kocurek’s Air Force tenure progresses, she remains open to the possibilities ahead, whether continuing in service or transitioning into a civilian job. Her language proficiency could lead her to diverse career paths, including the State Department or a number of intelligence agencies. “Who wouldn’t want to be Jack Ryan?” Kocurek smirked.

However, she remains committed to her current duty as an Airman. No matter who she’ll end up working with, Kocurek proudly states “Our ultimate oath is to safeguard our nation, addressing any threats in line with the constitution. That’s what I’ve dedicated myself to do.”Kocurek’s path from a disciplined upbringing to her transformative role as a linguist in the Air Force is a testament to her unwavering dedication and quest for knowledge. An exceptional Airman and linguist, she stands ready to use her skills as a diplomatic tool for a promising future, embodying DLIFLC’s commitment and the power of language in diplomacy.