Bridging the communication gap: USAF Major’s journey to Cope North 21

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla

Bridging the communication gap: USAF Major’s journey to Cope North 21

by Tech. Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- As Pacific Air Force’s largest multinational exercise, Cope North is a giant melting pot of cultures. With both English and Japanese-speaking participants, the importance of communication cannot be understated. Interpreters, like U.S. Air Force Maj. Brittany Morreale, are the linchpin to mission success, integration and interoperability.

“Our overall goal is to ensure mutual understanding across all three forces throughout the exercise,” said Morreale, the 5th Air Force A5 division chief and Cope North 21 Interpreter Cell lead. “We work at the strategic, operational and tactical levels so we integrate with everybody from senior leaders to the tactical operators.”

“International partnerships have never been more of a focal point than they are now,” said Col. Daisuke Kadota, the 2 WG FG/CC and Koku-Jieitai exercise director. “Exercises like Cope North are essential not only for our combat readiness but also in terms of developing and cultivating relationships among our service members. The interpreter cell helps bring them together and build those bonds; They are absolutely vital.”

Eleven years ago, Morreale graduated from the Air Force Academy and received one of the world’s most prestigious international scholarships, the Rhodes Scholarship. With that, she was on her way to the University of Oxford in England to pursue a master’s degree in sociology. Upon graduating in 2012, Morreale reported to her first assignment at the Air Force Research Laboratory as an Air Force physicist.

“We worked on small satellite scientific payloads which was really interesting,” she said. “My work there led to an opportunity to work with the Royal Australian Air Force as an exchange scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Group.”

Alongside Australian partners, Morreale was part of the team that launched two of the first small satellites marking a new beginning for their Defence Space Program. This, she said, was her first glimpse into the strategic importance of international partnerships.

Following a two-year stint at the Australian Research Laboratory, Morreale’s interest in multilateral defense cooperation eventually led her to the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) program. The FAO program recruits select officers to train in a foreign language and become cultural and regional experts.

Her language of choice— Japanese.

“My childhood best friend was Japanese, and she instilled in me a love for the culture and the language,” she said. “At the academy we had to choose a foreign language and as soon as I saw that Japanese was an option I immediately went for it, and it was the same with the FAO program.”

As a FAO based in Yokota Air Base, Japan, Morreale has participated in various exercises throughout the region bridging the communication gap between the U.S. and Koku-Jieitai partners, a mission that has brought her to Cope North 21.

Morreale is somewhat of a Cope North veteran having worked as an interpreter in the exercise for three consecutive years. In that time she has seen the exercise evolve and grow each year, something she has witnessed in amazement.

"Every year, this exercise just completely remakes itself, and that’s what’s so impressive about it,” she said. “The framework is built in such a way that we have the flexibility to incorporate new ideas and be a testbed for our strategy in the Pacific. This exercise will continue to be a gemstone of all of our exercises in the region.”

Reflecting on her time in Cope North 21, Morreale says, although she was able to watch a hot-pit refueling scenario with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from up-close, the highlight has been working with her fellow interpreters.

“There’s so many good memories. I’m nowhere near the most skilled of our interpreters, and I’ve just been in awe of watching their ability to help deepen relationships and understanding,” she said. “It’s been an honor to work with them.”

Photo Caption:
U.S. Air Force Maj. Brittany Morreale, the 5th Air Force A5 division chief and Cope North 21 Interpreter Cell lead, serves as an interpreter for a Japan Air Self-Defense Force, or Koku-Jieitai, and a Royal Australian Air Force member during Cope North 21 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 16, 2021. Morreale is a Foreign Affairs Officer specializing in Japanese and has served as an interpreter for several multinational exercises in the Pacific region.

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