by Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden
15th Wing Public Affairs
3/10/2015 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- An
Airman assigned to the 15th Operations Support Squadron is tapping into
a unique set of skills to support the U.S. Pacific Command's priority
of strengthening its foreign partnerships.
Capt. Joshua Hu, 15th OSS executive officer, speaks Chinese Mandarin and
has used his ability to translate to support three PACOM missions over
the last year.
Hu said his previous job on the PACOM surgeon's staff set him up for
once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that followed. When the People's
Liberated Army Senior Medical Delegation from China made their
inaugural visit to the U.S., the Air Force was in need of someone who
could translate English to Chinese, and Hu stepped up to the plate.
The Taiwan native then travelled with the delegation from Hawaii to the
Pentagon to translate for meetings with the joint service assistant
secretary of defense for health affairs and the Air Force, U.S. Army
and U.S. Navy surgeons general.
"One day, I was here in Honolulu, and the next, I was at the Pentagon
translating for very high level officials," he said. "Honestly, it was
nerve wracking, but I got enjoyment out of helping build and strengthen
the relationship between U.S. and China."
Following his work for the PLA delegation visit, Hu was then offered
another opportunity to put his translation skills to work during Rim of
the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 when PLA sent their navy hospital ship, the
ARK PEACE, to participate in the exercise for the first time in history.
During the exercise, Hu was responsible for negotiating the exercise
schedule, coordinating ship distinguished visitor tours and translating.
His work eventually landed him on the PLA ship where he spent 10 days
controlling helicopter operations and liaising with RIMPAC command and
control nodes. Hu is credited with helping land the first U.S.
helicopter on the ship.
Hu's work efforts during RIMPAC were described as "critical to the
engagement effort" by U.S. Navy Capt. Lynn Wheeler, executive officer
onboard the USNS Mercy (T-AH-19).
"It is impossible to describe how valuable he has been," she said. "All
of the members of the team have been critical to this effort, but his
experience in this role has paid huge dividends."
After his success with RIMPAC, Hu said he was pleasantly surprised to
learn he'd been selected to help out with another high-level mission,
this time serving as the interpreter for USPACOM's reciprocal senior
medical delegation visit to China.
"The entire experience has been cool ... being a part of history," he said.
Though Hu, who lived in Taiwan until he immigrated to the U.S. at the
age of 10, has been speaking Mandarin all his life, he said he still
studies to prepare for interpreter gigs, because they are a lot of
"I am fluent in the language, but I don't translate full time, so I had
to study on my own to make sure I did a good job," he said. "Normal
conversation is different than official function dialogue, and you have
to make sure you translate the right words, so you don't commit any
diplomatic or protocol errors."
Hu said being a good interpreter also means understanding the culture
and the context of words, so the right messages are not lost in
"You don't want to fail at this," he said. "You want to make sure you do
the best you can, so you can enhance the relationship between the U.S.
Though Hu has returned to his primary job as the 15th OSS executive
officer he said he looks forward to the future and what new
opportunities that may bring.
"I'm very appreciative to my leadership and PACOM for giving me these
opportunities," he said. "I wouldn't have had these opportunities or
been able to go on these trips if not for the support of my leadership
in both commands."
In the meantime, Hu plans to keep his translating skills sharp by
hosting workshops to teach interested Airmen the basics of the language.