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Translating mission success

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Isaac Yi and Republic of Korea Air Force 2nd Lts. Yohan Kim and Wero Jung with the 7th Air Force Air Component Command Plans and Coordination Division, serve as linguists during Exercise Key Resolve 2014 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, March 6, 2014.  Linguists translate and transcribe key messages between the Republic of Korea and U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Omari Bernard)

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Isaac Yi and Republic of Korea Air Force 2nd Lts. Yohan Kim and Wero Jung with the 7th Air Force Air Component Command Plans and Coordination Division, serve as linguists during Exercise Key Resolve 2014 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, March 6, 2014. Linguists translate and transcribe key messages between the Republic of Korea and U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Omari Bernard)

OSAN AIR BASE. Republic of Korea -- Whether in exercise or during normal operations, the 7th Air Force Air Component Command plans and coordination directorate translates and transcribes key messages between the Republic of Korea and U.S. Air Forces at Osan Air Base.  In communicating those messages, ROK and U.S. translators were essential to making the mission happen.

"Our mission is to support the combined effort by bridging the gap between the ROK and U.S. Armed Forces," said ROKAF 2nd Lt. Yohan Kim, a translator with the Air Force Operations Center.

Within the ACC, there are approximately eight ROKAF interpreters and one U.S. Air Force interpreter that are employed in briefing interpretations and translating reports.

"We seize every opportunity to better our ability," Kim said.

Tech. Sgt. Isaac Yi, joined the Air Force as a health and service management technician in May of 2001. In 2013, Yi became a Korean linguist. He did this by completing Air Force Oral Proficiency Interviews and passing the Defense Language Proficiency Test.

"We don't just speak one language, but four," Yi said. "You have to learn their different military acronyms as well and ours. It challenged me to grow professionally and broaden my Air Force knowledge."

During exercises like Key Resolve 2014 and day-to-day operations, it's critical that the ROK and U.S. can communicate with each other, and translators play a vital role. To accomplish the mission, we need accurate information to and from our counterparts explained Yi.

Of almost 100 ROKAF interpreters throughout the Korean peninsula, more than 20 are assigned to Osan units such as the Air Force Operations Command and the 37th Air Intelligence Group. Of those on Osan, the AFOC is the only section to stay completely integrated with both ROK and U.S. personnel.

Other linguists are assigned to larger commands such as the ROK Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Combined Forces Command.

ROKAF 2nd Lt. Yohan Jung, a translator with the Air Force Operations Center, said ROKAF-interpreter training is challenging in many ways.

"We play an active role in teaching and raising future interpreters," Jung said. "We make the tests and test the applicants in coordination with the Air Force Academy."

Jung stressed the most challenging part of being an interpreter is making sure they correctly communicate their leadership's message and intent.

"If there's no direct word for a translation, we explain it using others," Jung said. "We don't only translate the word, but also the cultural meaning."

Communication is difficult, and adding culture and language creates new challenges to everyday operations. AFOC linguists have an important mission to get the message across.

"I think it is crucial," Jung said. "In order to have anything combined it is paramount that we can communicate."