Marines bridge language gap at UFL[MIGRATE]

By Cpl. Luis R. Agostini | August 30, 2002

PALAN, Republic of Korea - In an effort to dissolve the language barriers between the Republic of Korea and Combined Marine Forces Command, four Hongul-speaking U.S. Marines were augmented to assist the CMFC staffs in communicating with their R.O.K. counterparts.

Sergeant Sung Kim, Cpl. Daniel Hong, and Lance Cpls. Charles Yi and Nadin Kaade have been tapped for their certified fluency in the Korean language.

Some of the translators' journeys toward their participation in UFL-02 began even before they could call themselves Marines. 

"My drill instructor asked the platoon, 'Who speaks another language?'" recalled Kaade, a separations clerk from MCB Camp Pendleton, Calif., Headquarters and Service Bn.  "Some of us raised our hands.  After I told my DI that I spoke Korean, my DI said, 'Oh, Korean?  You're taking the test tomorrow."

For Kim, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman from 3rd AAV Bn., Camp Pendleton, Calif., he received word from a fellow devil dog that his ability to speak a desired foreign language could prove beneficial to the Corps as well as himself.

"Someone told me that since I know how to speak Korean, I could make some extra money," said Kim.  "I took a test, passed it, and now I'm here, translating Korean for the Marine Corps."

Kim, along with his fellow translators, took the Defense Language Proficiency Test, which measures the aptitude for foreign language learning by the typical native English speaker.

During this exercise, the four bilingual leathernecks proved to be valuable assets for the CMFC.

"Their background and ability to read and write Hongul proved to be beneficial, as they assisted the U.S. staff in various ways, such as translating the slide presentations," said Chief Warrant Officer Michael Burns, CMFC nuclear, biological and chemical officer.

When communicating with the R.O.K. Marine troops, the translators found their Korean counterparts to be friendly, intelligent and motivating young men, and they saw themselves connecting with the R.O.K. Marines on a certain level because of their similar backgrounds.  However, their duties here have also provided them with an opportunity to view the differences in the way R.O.K. Marines and U.S. Marines operate.

"Their officers do the jobs that my NCOs and Staff NCOs do," said Hong.  "Our Corps is more decentralized than theirs."
Some of the Marines here have taken advantage of their visit to the Republic of Korea, visiting several historic sites and enjoying their liberty in the merchant-filled streets of Osan. For Hong, NBC NCO, MCAS Yuma, Ariz., this is an opportunity to ask himself, "what if?"

"This is a chance for me to see how it might've been if I lived in Korea," Hong revealed.