US Marines build friendship with Okinawa neighbors at Junglefest 2014
CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa, Japan -- Onlookers gasp as a woman rappels for the first time off of a jungle cliff. She safely reaches the ground before other volunteers take the plunge Oct. 25 during the first Junglefest community event in 15 years held at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves.
Approximately 700 people participated in the Marine Corps hosted event that included rappelling, martial arts training, pugil-stick fighting, military face painting, jungle survival training, karaoke singing, a haunted house, and a light armor vehicle and assault amphibious vehicle for members of the community to tour.
The JWTC is the only jungle warfare training center in the U.S. military. The facility is home to courses in jungle warfare and survival tactics.
“The intent of Junglefest 2014 is to expose the local community to what we do here at the JWTC,” said Maj. Tim Y. Kao , the camp commander and director of the JWTC. “We teach them that yes, we do train for combat here, but we are also training to be able to respond across the Pacific and Asia in case of a humanitarian aid or natural disaster event.”
Junglefest 2014 helps further the Marine Corp’s positive relationship with the members of the community, according to Kao, from Vancouver, Washington.
“There’s a lot of good that comes from having the Marines here, so we’re showing community members that we are open to working with them, and we enjoy being around them,” said Kao.
The cliff rappelling was the most popular attraction. A large crowd of onlookers gathered to watch volunteers descend.
“This event simulates different rappel techniques you would use during a patrol or when you are rappelling from a helicopter,” said 1st Lt. Lance C. Sutton, an operations officer and instructor at the JWTC.
Junglefest 2014 lasted four hours, but participants were still lining up for events until the last few minutes.
“My favorite thing here was the MCMAP and the haunted house,” said Miyu Higa, an Okinawa native and community resident. “I learned how to disarm a gun from an attacker, and I think the haunted house was really scary.”
Following the success of the event, the Marines who participated are hopeful it will continue.
“I would love to see another one next year,” said Kao. “For now we will have to wait and see, but I think there’s a good chance it will happen.”