Program furthers understanding between Okinawans, Marines
CAMP FOSTER -- Okinawa community members visited U.S. Marine Corps installations April 29, as part of a regular community outreach event called the Marine Corps 101 Seminar.
Throughout the day, residents gained a new perspective on the daily lives of Marines stationed on Okinawa by visiting various installations which make up Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
“Most of the people on this island gather what they know about the Marine Corps from reading newspapers or watching TV,” said Robert D. Eldridge, the seminar group leader and the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-7, government and external affairs, MCIPAC. “We are good neighbors and wish to further opportunities for partnership with the local community by introducing the Marine Corps to them. That is the purpose of this seminar.”
The group arrived on Camp Foster in the morning to witness the national ensigns of the U.S. and Japan being raised and to start the day dedicated to forging greater bonds between the U.S. military and Okinawa community.
“Today, we’re giving (this group of citizens) an opportunity to see everything from the inside, rather than trying to peek over the fence,” said Eldridge, a Wall Township, N.J., native. “They get to talk to Marines and learn about Marine culture and history, which gives them a better appreciation for what the Corps is all about.”
The group traveled to Camps Foster, Schwab, Hansen and Courtney, where they engaged in several presentations that taught them about the history of the camps and Marine Corps life.
“We learned about the USO and what it does,” said Yukihiro Nakayama, a seminar participant. “I think it is really helpful and good for the Marines, and it’s a good place to meet Marines for events where they open the base up to citizens, like festivals and holidays.”
The highlight of the tour was a group lunch on Camp Schwab with Marines who are part of the Single Marine Program there, according to Nakayama.
“I was very happy to eat with the Marines because it was my first time ever having this experience,” said Nakayama. “They were so nice. We were even invited by the camp director to go to a festival on May 17 and 18, so we can have more time to talk with Marines and see them when they aren’t busy working. Many of us accepted the invitation.”
As the group concluded their tour, many were smiling, clapping and dancing because they had enjoyed the experience, according to Mikako Miyagi, a seminar participant.
“This tour has really helped close the gap between the Marines and the Okinawa citizens because we were able to see so much today and learn a lot of things we didn’t know before,” said Miyagi. “I think it’s important for our two nations to work together in case of an emergency where (citizens), police and military all have to work together, so this tour is very good. It builds stronger relationships and brings us all closer together.”
For more information about attending a tour, e-mail MCBJCommunitypolicy@usmc.mil with your questions.