'99 graduate, family head to Argentina through Olmsted Scholar program

  • Published
  • By Capt. Stacie N. Shafran
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
An A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot assigned to the 358th Fighter Squadron here was one of 17 military officers selected by the George and Carol Olmsted Foundation to be a student in Olmsted Scholar Class of 2011.

Maj. Sean Baerman, a 1999 graduate of the Air Force Academy, will move with his family to Buenos Aires in June and will spend the next eight months learning Spanish and immersing themselves in the culture and customs of Argentina and its neighboring countries.

The Olmsted Scholar Program provides an opportunity for officers to study in a foreign language at an international university abroad to gain an in-depth understanding of foreign languages and cultures. The skills they gain will help them be knowledgeable and sensitive to the viewpoints and concerns of people around the world as they progress with their Air Force careers. The program involves cultural immersion, as well as studying at the university in the native language.

Major Baerman is also following in his father's, footsteps. Retired Col. Paul Baerman was an Army Olmsted Scholar in Geneva, Switzerland, before the major was born. With this, they are making history. This is the first time since the program was created in 1957 that a parent and then a child have participated.

"In addition to my father serving as a role model, Gen. Olmsted himself was an amazing individual, both in the military and as a civilian," the major said. "The principles he and his foundation espouse are extremely admirable. It is an honor to be part of this program."

As part of his application process, Major Baerman took the Defense Language Aptitude Battery exam. Although no actual fluency of a specific language is required, the major studied French in high school and in college. He also did some self-study last year in order to get a Defense Language Proficiency Test score on file to have a stronger application package. Applicants must also submit their undergraduate transcripts, Graduate Record Examination scores, officer performance reports, obtain letters of recommendation and write an essay to the foundation explaining their interest in the program. Of the 137 Air Force applicants this year, the Air Force board forwarded 12 officers, and seven were ultimately selected by the Olmsted Foundation.

"I've been flying A-10s my entire career, it will be interesting to see what it's like to not fly for almost three years," Major Baerman said. "The Olmsted program provides one of the best opportunities for career broadening and every aspect of the program is appealing to me and my family."

The major said he's most looking forward to the challenge of learning a new language, the opportunity to live and travel in South America, and the chance to do something vastly different than what his peers normally do.

"The day I found out I had been chosen to be part of the program, and that we were going to Buenos Aires, (Argentina) I bought several books and started studying Spanish with the Rosetta Stone language software," Major Baerman said. "I've been studying for about an hour and a half each day. I also listen to a podcast called 'Coffee Break Español' to and from work."

Next April, after gaining fluency in the language, the major will begin his two-year academic endeavor to earn a Masters of International Relations at the University of Belgrano.

For more information, visit the George and Carol Olmsted Foundation website at www.olmstedfoundation.org.