CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, JAPAN --
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan—Marines, airmen and members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force gathered to study the Battle of Okinawa during a Marine Corps Community Services battle sites tour Feb. 8 on Okinawa, Japan.
The service members participated in the tour to deepen their understanding of Marine Corps and Okinawan history as part of an enlisted professional military education course held by Marine Corps Installations Pacific. The tour guide ensured that each participant understood the basics of tactics used and sacrifices made during the Battle of Okinawa, so that everyone could bring back knowledge to share with their unit.
“The purpose of this tour is bring greater understanding to the noncommissioned officer Marines, and those who are training with them during this Corporal’s Course, about what exactly happened here on Okinawa in World War II and how those operations effect their current mission here in the Indo-Asia Pacific Region,” said Mark Waycaster, the MCCS battle sites tour guide.
Corporal’s Course is a Marine Corps wide program that provides all Marine corporals with the education and leadership skills necessary to lead Marines, ingraining the history and tradition of the Marine Corps into each leader. The course places emphasis on leadership foundations and a working knowledge of general military subjects. Events like the battle sites tour ensure that Marines fully understand their past, so they pass on their knowledge to their subordinates and help the Marine Corps grow in the future.
“The thing about history is, if you don’t learn from it, you are bound to repeat it,” said Waycaster. “You need to understand what these guys went through before because we haven’t seen large scale operations like this since World War II and they need to have that in the back of their head. So, hopefully it never happens, but if it does, they have an idea of what they need to be prepared for.”
Waycaster brought the Marines, airmen and JGSDF members to a total of four sites: Kakzu Ridge, Battle of Okinawa historical display at Camp Kinser, Japanese Naval underground headquarters, and Peace Prayer Park.
According to Waycaster, each specific battle site was chosen for a reason. Kakazu Ridge was the first part of the Shuri defensive line, the first time Americans hit hard resistance from the Japanese. The Battle of Okinawa historial display at Camp Kinser gave an idea of what the items physically used during the battle looked like. The Japanese Naval underground headquarters helped the Corporal’s Course understand the last time the Marine Corps has done an amphibious operation on that large of a scale. Lastly, Peace Prayer Park displayed the cost of the battle and the effect of it on the American and Japanese people together.
Throughout Corporal’s Course, the members of JGSDF, Marines and airmen, exchanged their branch’s traditions and history, changing each other’s perspectives on various topics. During the tour, members of the JGSDF translated for their classmates, explaining the differences in the Japanese and U.S. military’s perspectives.
“For Marines, history is very important because Marine leaders are the keepers of tradition,” said Sgt. Masaru Takao, a member of JGSDF participating in Corporal’s Course. “The Battle of Okinawa was one of the most heavy-hearted battles in Marine history. Knowing Okinawa’s history is very important for Marine leaders and you see it instills motivation. Corporals and all leaders have to convey the magnitude to all of their Marines, today helped them learn.”
After the Marines, airmen and JGSDF members paid their respects at the Cornerstone of Peace in Itoman, they exchanged pleasantries and continued back to the Corporal’s Course classroom, where they will continue to learn more about the foundations of Marine Corps leadership.
“I am glad I came today,” said Cpl. Alexander Dent, a data systems specialist with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “I have gone through this tour before but going through a second time I definitely caught some things I missed last time. This is who we are, the Marine Corps is built on tradition, the past and shaping it into the future.”