YOKOSUKA, Japan -- Three midshipmen, Midshipman 1st Class Jaqueline Ramos, Midshipman 2nd Class Aidan Palmer, and Midshipman 2nd Class Alexander Rudison, from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) recently attended Japan’s National Defense Academy (NDA) in Yokosuka under its 1-semester (4 month) international exchange program and gained invaluable experience during their stay.
According to Hitoshi Kawano, the director of Center for International Exchange and a professor at Department of Public Policy at NDA, the program started as a short-term program in 1971 to 1972 and was upgraded from two weeks to four months in 2006.
The NDA’s educational program includes classes on leadership, cultural and historical subjects, science and language. In turn, NDA sent one Japanese cadet to attend USNA classes this semester.
“First of all I was interested in Japanese culture. At USNA, I learned about many international programs where you can study abroad,” said Ramos, a native of Braintree, Massachusetts. “This is a good learning opportunity for knowing about Japanese culture and my own development as a leader by seeing leadership through another country’s eyes.”
All of the NDA classes are conducted in Japanese with a little help in English. The early part of the program is an intense Japanese language course where they attend four classes a day. The second half of course work is determined by the individual’s preferences, in addition to Japanese language, history and culture classes.
“I learned about thermos dynamics, electric engineering, protocol science and leadership,” said Palmer, a native of Des Moines, Iowa.
Ramos and Rudison studied Japanese literature, and they also visited Iwo Jima where the U.S. and Japan fought fierce battles in February 1945.
“It’s one thing to learn about the battle of Iwo Jima in history books in Annapolis,” said Palmer. “But it’s completely different to go and see the island itself where an important event took place.”
“That was probably the most impactful experience,” said Rudison, originally from Herdon, Virginia. “It was moving in a lot of ways I didn’t expect. Seeing the Japanese memorial next to the American memorial with the Marine dog tags made you feel the sacrifice [made in the war]. I still can’t process it myself.”
“We walked across the full length of the island to the mountain where the U.S. Marines planted the flag. I felt like I was literally walking through history,” said Ramos.
The flag she mentions is the raising of the flag at Mount Suribachi, which is possibly one of the most symbolic images of World War II.
The international exchange program also accepts trainees from countries such as Australia, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore, and NDA sends cadets to these countries in return. So far, the program has accepted a total of 38 midshipmen from USNA.