USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, At Sea -- Three Sailors from guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) used their language skills to contribute to the success of the first bilateral counter-piracy exercise ever conducted between the U.S. and China near the Horn of Africa, Sept. 17.
The exercise brought Sailors from Winston S. Churchill and other U.S. Navy assets together with elements of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) from guided-missile frigate Yi Yang (FF 548).
The exercise focused on interoperability in detecting, boarding and searching suspected vessels as well as the ability of both Chinese and American naval assets to respond to pirated vessels.
To enable the combined operations, both navies had translators present at every stage of the exercise.
"I'm proud and excited to serve as a translator during such an important exercise," said Ship's Serviceman 2nd Class Junwen Liang. "This is a unique opportunity to use both my native and adopted languages in service of my country."
Liang, who immigrated to the United States from China at age 20, said he came to America speaking almost no English. He joined the Navy after pursuing further education in New York and has worked his way up to becoming the training petty officer for the S-3 division of Winston S. Churchill's Supply department.
For the exercise, Liang served as the primary translator for Cmdr. Chris D. Stone, commanding officer of Winston S. Churchill, both during a luncheon aboard Yi Yang and aboard Winston S. Churchill as Stone and PLA(N) officials observed the counter-piracy exercise together.
"Petty Officer Liang is an exceptional Sailor, an integral member of the Winston S. Churchill team, and he performed admirably during this exercise," said Stone. "Liang's on-site translation and briefing on customs helped ensure solid communication between U.S. Navy and PLA(N) Sailors along with aiding us in understanding the cultural nuances that help both sides better understand each other."
While Liang primarily translated for leadership, Ship's Serviceman Seaman Qing Su and Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Guo Rui Liu aided the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams. Both are also immigrants from China. The combined U.S.-Chinese VBSS team successfully searched Winston S. Churchill as part of the training scenario and provided assistance to the role-playing mariners. According to Lt. j.g. Edward R. Kellum, VBSS boarding officer, Winston S. Churchill's translators were part of that success.
"Both teams were highly professional, so we worked together well," said Kellum. "By helping bridge the language gap, they helped us connect on a more human level. That makes any combined effort easier."
Su, who joined the Navy to improve her English, said she was glad to assist the VBSS team members.
"When both sides can understand each other, it's easier to work out small problems and focus on how to succeed in larger matters," said Su.
Having the opportunity to act as a translator for such a high-level exercise reinforced Liang's sense of patriotism.
"My opportunity to take part in this exchange, and in the Navy itself, reminds me that I serve a country that accepts people from many different parts of the world," said Liang. "No matter where and how I serve, I'm still serving for my freedom and my country."
Winston S. Churchill is currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.