Exchange program brings Okinawa Marines, local students together
CAMP FOSTER - Smiling happily, an eighth grade student dips a ladle into a container, serving its contents to the gracious Marine across from her before moving to the next hungry patron in line.
Students with the Chatan and Kuwae Junior High Schools visited Marines’ work sections at Camp Foster June 24-26 to experience different jobs Marines and contractors on military bases have as part of the Japan Exchange Student Program.
“It’s a good opportunity to learn new skills,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Rosario, a Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native and food service specialist with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “They might have interest in this kind of work in the future, so the more they know about it now the better they will be.”
Three students worked with personnel from the Base Safety Office, three additional students at the Base Supply Office, and two helped at Camp Foster’s Mess Hall 488, learning the skills used by the Marines and civilian contractors to do their job.
For the students participating in the program, it was a chance to get some hands-on experience while enjoying their new, albeit brief, occupation, according to Niina Higa, an eighth-grade student at Chatan Junior High School and food service specialist for a day.
“I like getting to serve the food,” said Higa. “I want to learn English, and I get to practice here when I give them their food.”
For the Marines working alongside the students, the program provided an opportunity to teach the students the skills they trained in, according to Lance Cpl. Ashley C. Merrick, a supply administration and operations specialist with base supply.
“This helps us test our own knowledge while practicing our ability to teach, which is part of what a leader is required to do,” said Merrick, an Asheboro, North Carolina, native. “I hope they come again next year, and when they do, I hope more units participate.”
The Marines, master labor contractors and the students enjoyed the time they spent together and hope for another chance to do the same again someday, according to Higa.
“I really want to come and do this again,” said Higa. “I had a lot of fun working with them all.”