OKINAWA, Japan - Japanese and English words and phrases meshed together as Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and U.S. Marines and sailors spent time learning about one another’s language and culture.
Service members with the JGSDF’s 15th Brigade and 3rd Marine Logistics Group interacted March 7 at Camp Naha and March 8 at Camp Kinser during a cultural exchange.
The event had many purposes, but the most important was to provide an opportunity for the service members to teach each other English and Japanese while simultaneously developing cultural awareness and building lasting relationships, according to JGSDF Sgt. 1st Class Sho Furusada, the liaison noncommissioned officer with the 15th Brigade Headquarters, 15th Brigade, Western Army, JGSDF.
“Every unit needs people who are fluent in English and are able to remove language barriers,” said Furusada. “This also helps improve our training environment in Okinawa with U.S. forces.”
The two-day program began at Camp Naha, where Marines and sailors partnered with JGSDF members for English and Japanese interactive learning games.
“Since it is fairly new to me, I find speaking English to sometimes be difficult and somewhat frustrating,” said JGSDF Cpl. Yuta Nakazawa, a maintenance specialist with Maintenance Corps, 15th Brigade. “However, working with the Marines and sailors is fun and makes learning more interesting for me.”
After the classes, the JGSDF members gave the Marines and sailors a tour of the historical display at Camp Naha, providing the U.S. service members a different perspective on Japanese military history.
“I really enjoyed seeing the Battle of Okinawa from their perspective,” said Cpl. Hector Moraromero, a supply administration specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd MLG, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It made me realize that our Marines shared many of the same experiences of their service members when they fought in World War II.”
The second portion of the exchange program took place at Camp Kinser the following day, where JGSDF and U.S. service members were given more opportunities to practice their language skills. The service members also received a guided tour of the camp’s Battle of Okinawa historical display.
“I think this training and exchange was highly beneficial for both the JGSDF members, as well as for the Marines and sailors,” said Navy Lt. Barrett Craig, the chaplain for 3rd Supply Battalion, CLR-35. “The participating JGSDF members and Marines got to develop a good working relationship and see that people sitting across from them have similar experiences and ways of thinking.”
Service members from both countries agreed the training and bonding opportunities were valuable and worth continuing.
“I really enjoyed interacting and learning with the JGSDF members, who were very welcoming to us,” said Moraromero. “I think that more Marines should be given this opportunity and would definitely like to see more training like this in the near future.”