Marines assist JSDF members during drill competition
Camp Itazuma, Gotenba, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan -- The U.S. Marines are taught drill to build esprit de corps, impart military traditions and, most importantly, ingrain discipline and bearing. The Japan Self-Defense Force utilizes drill for all of these reasons while also employing it for another purpose, language training.
Students with the JSDF 3rd Sergeants Training Unit participated in a drill competition April 26 at Camp Itazuma, Gotenba, Shizuoka prefecture, as part of their basic enlisted English course curriculum.
“The purpose of the competition was to build confidence and improve the sergeants’ English-speaking abilities,” said JSDF Capt. Mamoru Takahashi, the chief instructor of the basic English course for the 3rd Sergeants Training Unit. “We need to study English in order to properly communicate with our U.S. allies, and I think it lends a hand to mutual understanding and human resource development.”
The basic English course is three months long and has three events in which U.S. Marines play a role; a visit to Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, a speech contest and the drill competition. Upon graduation from the course, the JSDF soldiers can attend an intermediate or advanced English course.
“We wanted to include the U.S. Marines in this course because we are neighbors and because we regard them as the finest of all U.S. forces,” said Takahashi.
The course’s drill competition requires each student to lead a squad of up to five JSDF soldiers through five minutes of drill movements, communicating solely in English. Two U.S. Marines and three JSDF basic English course instructors evaluate them on their pronunciation and overall demeanor.
“I was most impressed with how serious the JSDF take their drill,” said Sgt. Bryon D. Boyd, a food service specialist with Headquarters Company, Camp Fuji. “I think they wanted U.S. Marines to help judge the competition because they want to know what we look for in a leader and because they appreciate how seriously we take our drill.”
Marines appreciated the opportunity to assist with the competition.
“The experience was well worth the time because it allowed me to see something that not a lot of people can say they’ve seen, and my participation directly reflects the Corps’ ongoing commitment to fostering good relations with our allies,” said Staff Sgt. Cynthia E. Vasquez, a former drill instructor who now serves as the postal chief for Headquarters Company, Camp Fuji.
The most enjoyable part of volunteering during the competition was helping the JSDF soldiers, who are dedicated to perfecting their drill commands and movements, according to Vasquez.
“It was good motivation for our soldiers to have Staff Sgt. Vasquez and Sgt. Boyd judge the competition and interact with them when it was over,” said Takahashi.
Once the scores were tallied, it was JSDF Sgt. Shun Ubukata, a tank mechanic, who triumphed on the parade deck, according to Takahashi. Ubukata was presented with a first-place certificate signed by the U.S. Marine and JSDF judges.