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Language-enabled Airmen strengthen commitment to regional Allies

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

The United States has placed major emphasis on partnering to build resilience in the Pacific Islands and expanding allies and partners’ cooperation in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy. Exercise Cope North is one way the United States Air Force addresses this commitment each year.

Cope North is an annual field training exercise sponsored by U.S. Pacific Air Forces that allows each participating partner nation to hone vital readiness skills while enhancing interoperability among multiple mission areas including air superiority, interdiction, electronic warfare, tactical airlift, and aerial refueling capabilities. 

Two Japanese Language Enabled Airman Program Scholars worked alongside U.S. Air Force airfield experts to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific through the exchange of skills with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force partners during Exercise Cope North 2023 (CN23), which took place Feb. 2-22, 2023, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

“Having support from language-enabled Airmen for this event is invaluable and vital for mission success. Cope North is historically the No. 1 or 2 highest priority in PACAF out of roughly 47 annual exercises, and the linguist support enabled the USAF and RAAF to further interoperability with our JASDF Allies,” COPE NORTH lead planner Lt. Col. David Overstreet said.

Maj. Brandon Krupa and Senior Airman Tadayoshi Kiriyama provided Japanese language support for the event by interpreting conversations and briefings between the U.S. military and partner nation militaries on various discussion topics including agile combat employment, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, command relationships, and international relationships.

“The United States-Japan alliance is one of the world's most important and enduring alliances and the bedrock for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Although this relationship has provided security and stability to the region for generations, China’s rise in military power and global influence has required a reexamination of the alliance's mutual defense agreement and architecture,” Krupa said. “Field training exercises like CN23 are held to increase interoperability and integrate command and control to increase regional deterrence and combat capabilities.”

While Krupa does not get the opportunity to utilize his Japanese language skillset on a normal basis in his current assignment, this Language Intensive Training event afforded him a chance to strengthen his skills through direct interpretation and translation work. 

“This LITE allowed me to work firsthand with our JASDF counterparts and US forces at the operational and tactical level as they exercise the agile combat employment scheme of maneuver and send strategic messaging to our adversaries in the region,” he explained. “It also allowed me the opportunity to utilize my Japanese in an operational setting while giving me insights that will aid me in my next assignment as a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command staff officer.”

Both LEAP Scholars gained knowledge of Indo-Pacific relations with priority partners in the region while supporting the U.S. Air Force with strengthening commitment to the region.

“LEAP involvement in Cope North allows us the opportunity to continue to strengthen our interoperability and relationships in the region. The USAF relationship with JASDF and RAAF is very strong but can only get stronger with clear language communication across all three nations,” Overstreet said.

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