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MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Marine reservist Lance Cpl. Sungwoo Hur, translator and riflemen with 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, translates for the Japan Ground Self Defense Force as part of Exercise Iron Fist 2013 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 28 2013. During Exercise Iron Fist 2013, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Japan Ground Self Defense Force spent three weeks participating in bilateral training which improved their interoperability, enhanced military-to-military relations, and sharpened skills essential to crisis response. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan/ Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl Demetrius Morgan

Translators help Marines, JGSDF understand each other for Exercise Iron Fist 2013

22 Feb 2013 | Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

"Translate this for me", is what Marines and Sailors often said when working with members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force during Exercise Iron Fist 2013.

This language barrier between the two militaries created challenges throughout the exercise. However, translators helped breach this obstacle and enabled both groups to benefit from the training.

Marines, Sailors, and members of the JGSDF participated in numerous training exercises to enhance military-to-military relations and sharpen crisis response skills, which demanded communication with the JGSDF.

"My role here is to assist the [JGSDF] to better understand what goes on during this exercise," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryusuke Kurachi, a hospital corpsmen and translator for Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "This is the first time the [JGSDF]has done this type of training on such a scale so they rely on me a lot to put the pieces together for them." 

            Kurachi is a Chiba, Japan native that is fluent in Japanese from years of speaking it as his first language. Kurachi has done many other translating exercises throughout his career in other countries, but this is the first time Kurachi has translated for two different military forces for an exercise in the United States.

            With being a translator comes different obstacles and complications. Sometimes miscommunications between the translators and the JGSDF occur because of the different Japanese dialects, explained Kurachi.

Throughout the exercise, translators were sent to designated units who trained with the JGSDF. 1st Reconnaissance Battalion adopted their own translator. Lance Cpl. Abigail Reynolds, a Raleigh, N.C. native, and landing support specialist. She was the only female Marine translator utilized during the exercise.

Reynolds moved to Japan for two years after high school and in that time learnt to speak and understand Japanese. She then went back to America and joined the Marine Corps; graduating Boot Camp in early 2012.

Reynolds participated alongside the 1st Recon Bn. in numerous training events including swimming, amphibious assaults and helo castings.

“I love doing the training especially with the Japanese there, said Reynolds. It’s kind of like a piece of my past is here with my present.

Although being a translator has its challenges, Marine reservist Lance Cpl. Sungwoo Hur, a translator and riflemen with 2nd Battalion 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, enjoys being around the JGSDF. Hur can speak three languages. Korean, English and Japanese. He learned to speak Japanese as his designated language course in high school.

            "It’s exciting working with the [JGSDF],” said Hur, a Seoul, South Korea, native.

  “It’s cool to see how they work. I respect their discipline and I’ve had a great time working with the [JGSDF].”

            The translators were important contributors to the mission success of Iron Fist 2013. Their ability to bridge the gap between cultures and languages assured that both the Marines and the JGSDF could safely and effectively learn and benefit from the training.

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit