EAST FUJI MANEUVER AREA, Japan - For an average person, learning the Japanese language means paying for Rosetta Stone, taking classes, and learning to write Kanji. For Lance Cpl. Cody C. Kurfman, learning Japanese was a part of growing up.
“Embracing the culture of the people is what makes you understand the language better,” said Kurfman, a special communications signals collection operator with III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF in support of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF during the Artillery Relocation Training Program 12-2 in East Fuji, Japan.
Kurfman was born in Osaka, Japan, and raised in the Nara Prefecture which helped him develop a firm understanding of the Japanese culture and language.
“Picking up on the language came from hanging around friends and getting into local things in the area,” said Kurfman. “Knowing about the culture is credited to how I was raised.”
Kurfman provided both language and cultural expertise to the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines and Japanese government officials during key events of ARTP 12-2. His knowledge of cultural nuances and idioms in the language and the ability to rapidly transmit ideas between English and Japanese allowed the conversations to flow with clear understanding.
Kurfman has been one of the best translators present for these events, according to Mr. Tatsuo Yamamoto, the director general of the South Kanto Defense Bureau.
The experience and knowledge that Kurfman possesses allowed the commanding officer to efficiently communicate his intent and vision for the training program in the East Fuji Maneuver Area to the local citizens.
“He’s a force multiplier that helps the Marines coordinate with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force support units and South Kanto Defense Bureau officials during this exercise,” said Maj. David L. Padilla, the battalion executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines.
Kurfman lived in Japan for 17 years with his parents, where his father was a missionary. He learned proper Japanese writing and Japanese going through the Japanese education system while living in Japan. He then moved to San Diego, to take college courses in bible studies. Later in his life, he moved to Belleville, Ill., where he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
I was excited to find out that I was going to be stationed at Okinawa so I could use my skills here, said Kurfman.
According to Kurfman, knowledge of the culture comes from interaction with the local community.
“There’s only so much you can learn with the assistance of books,” said Kurfman. “Knowing about the people allows you to read into the meaning of some of the things they say, because not every word has a singular meaning.”
Kurfman’s impact on ARTP 12-2 has not been lost in translation. His unique ability to convey the intent of the battalion has allowed for clear and effective communication and a shared vision with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and South Kanto Defense Bureau.