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Cope North 2024 wraps up, highlighting language barrier challenges

Two aircraft from the multinational Cope North 2024 exercises are out on display as aircrews walk around Andersen Air Force Base's flight line.
Naina Rao
KPRG 89.3 FM
Aircrews and aircraft from the multinational Cope North 2024 exercises were out on display at Andersen Air Force Base's flight line.

Cope North, a multinational military exercise held throughout February 2024 in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, concluded on Feb. 22.

The annual exercise aimed to enhance cooperation and interoperability among military forces from France, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the United States.

As part of the event, Andersen Air Force Base hosted a "static display" on the last day of Cope North, allowing members of the public to meet and greet airmen, and get a closer look at the aircraft used in the exercise.

However, one of the challenges faced during the operation was the language barrier.

Captain Satoru Ishiwata from Japan's Air Self-Defense Force emphasized the need for more language training to improve communication with foreign countries. "We have to learn the history, culture, and of course, the language," he said.

Group Capt. Kylie Green, chief of the Royal Australian Air Force Group, highlighted the importance of interpreters in facilitating communication and understanding cultural nuances.

Image of an aircraft carrier belonging to the Royal Australian Air Force Group.
Naina Rao
KPRG 89.3 FM
Aircraft carrier from the Royal Australian Air Force Group on display as Cope North 2024 concluded.

"We have amazing interpreters. We have a really good group of folks who are able to interpret the language," she said.

Besides deepening the countries’ professional rapport, Green noted that their personal relationships developed too. “Humor is a huge part,” she said.

In the case of an actual conflict that requires immediate multinational cooperation, Lt. Ariana Wilkinson, chief of media operations and public affairs at Andersen Air Force Base, explained that professional translators and interpreters are always ready.

“I wouldn’t say they’re on call,” said Wilkinson. “But actual individuals that’s career field is dedicated to being translators, and being able to understand different languages, context, cultures.”

She added that they’re typically already embedded in operations and exercises within the military.

“And that’s their entire career dedicated to that,” Wilkinson said. “They’re just ready. If they get a phone call to go, just the same as us, we’re ready to go. Almost like a flight crew.”

As the exercise concluded, and personnel from various bases across the U.S. and the globe left Guam, Cope North showcased the strength of multinational combat airpower amid rising geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

Naina Rao serves as Isla Public Media's first News Director. She's extensively produced for National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Culture Desk, and 1A.