US service members, Thai students break language barriers

III Marine Expeditionary Force / Marine Corps Installations Pacific
Story by Cpl. Adam Miller

Date: 02.11.2014
Posted: 02.13.2014 19:58
News ID: 120610
US service members, Thai students break language barriers

BAN CHAN KREM, Kingdom of Thailand – U.S. Marines and sailors spent the day teaching Thai children English Feb. 11 at the Wut Khun Song elementary school near Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold 2014.

The purpose of the community relations event was for U.S. service members to share their culture while also learning about the Thai culture from the teachers and students at the school.

“We paired up one U.S. Marine or sailor with two or three students to teach them English and to hopefully learn something about each other’s culture,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Williams, a chaplain with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. The battalion is attached to 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, as part of the Marine Corps’ unit deployment program. “This community is familiar with the Cobra Gold exercise that takes place each year. It is a real blessing for us to be able to come here and share what we can to show our appreciation for hosting us.”

Exercise Cobra Gold is a multinational and multiservice exercise that takes place annually throughout the Kingdom of Thailand and was developed by the Thai and U.S. militaries.

“It is important for our students to learn English, but I am the only English-speaking teacher at the school,” said Chantira Makate, a Wut Khun Song school teacher. “Having the (U.S. service members) here is a great opportunity for the students to learn some English from actual English-speakers.”

The day was made up of Marines and sailors teaching their Thai “students” simple English phrases, playing games and learning about each other’s cultures.

“I volunteered for the event because I know these (children) don’t always have the same privileges as I had growing up,” said Lance Cpl. Warren S. Dodds, a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “It was a lot of fun for me and it looked like the other (service members and children) had a blast. It was easy and fun once we all got to know each other.”

Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise. This year marks the 181st year of a strong and enduring relationship and the 33rd iteration of the annual exercise.

“I’ve seen a light in the eyes of the Marines and sailors; it transcends the language barrier,” said Williams. “I think it is inspiring them beyond just their military duty, beyond their day-to-day; hopefully they’ll look back at this experience and know they made a lasting memory for these children just as I am sure the children made an impression on them.”

The Marine Corps unit deployment program rotates U.S.-based units to III MEF in Japan for six months and is designed to provide the rotational unit unique training opportunities and augment the capabilities of III MEF.