CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- With the aim of improving interpretation skills, U.S. Army Reserve Affairs Japan, U.S. Army Japan, hosted seven Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) Technical Reserve Candidates for a training symposium here Sept. 24.
The candidates, from the 117th Training Battalion based at Camp Takeyama near Yokosuka, practiced their skills during exercises, learned about challenges they might face, and became more familiar with the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve.
Maj. Dawn Opland, a key organizer of the event and planner for U.S. Army Reserve Affairs Japan ( USARJ) said the intent was to bring together the JGSDF reserve and the U.S. Army Reserve and improve communications when the U.S. Army and the JGSDF train together or encounter contingency operations.
“Translators are the life blood of the exercise or contingency operation in many cases,” Opland said. “If you can’t understand what the other is saying, then you’re going to be flat-footed. You’re going to be on your heels. You’re not going to be able to respond as quickly.”
The day-long event included a lunch where members of the U.S. Army and JGSDF exchanged their respective field rations, a fun way to improve communication. U.S. Soldiers, for example, showed the JGSDF members how to use the heaters in their Meals, Ready-to-Eat.
“I want them to take away that U.S. Soldiers are very approachable, even though we’re very direct and may sound a little bit harsh to them sometimes,” Opland said. “I want them to understand that we appreciate their skills and abilities and it really is one team.”
In addition, the event included several speakers and two practical exercises, Opland said.
“One was a rapid translation practical exercise where the interpreters had a chance to facilitate an office call,” Opland said. “We also did a written practical exercise where they translated a schedule for an opening ceremony for an exercise.”
In addition, participants toured the Camp Zama History Museum, Opland said.
First Lt. Akito Saruge, training officer for the 117th Training Bn., said the training improved the candidates’ military vocabulary and deepened the relationship between USARJ and the JGSDF.
In particular, the training helped the candidates learn relevant English vocabulary by requiring them to translate in realistic situations, Saruge said.
Tatsushi Kishikawa, a candidate with the 117th Training Bn. who works as a translator in his civilian job, said he appreciated the training and learned a lot.
“After listening to the briefings, I am now able to envision myself doing work as an interpreter,” Kishikawa said. “I feel like I have a good idea of how to prepare for my upcoming duties and be an asset to my unit.”
Yuuki Fujita, meanwhile, also a candidate with the 117th Training Bn., said he hopes to help the Japan and U.S. alliance through his work as an interpreter.
“I think the Japan-U.S. alliance plays a very important role in keeping peace and stability in the world,” Fujita said. “I also think that the interpreters who help connect those two countries are a key to that success.”
Staff Sgt. James Hankins, individual mobilization augmentee manager for U.S. Army Reserve Affairs Japan, USARJ, briefed the candidates on his experience interpreting between the JGSDF and U.S. Army at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, in 2017.
“When we weren’t doing a mission or going from mission to mission, I had to study Japanese military language because I know Japanese on the civilian side of things, but I did not know it on the military side of things,” Hankins said. “So it was an in-depth experience in learning Japanese.”
The candidates responded well, asking a lot of questions about his experiences, Hankins said.
Both organizations have a lot to learn from each other, Hankins said, and if they use their strengths to assist one another, it will help when they work together during training or contingency operations.
“We can go about it together in cooperation,” Hankins said.