MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI -- In light of terrorist attacks on America and the resulting force protection issues implemented as a result, it was anybody's guess as to what the mood of the Nov. 15 Town Hall meeting at the Marine Memorial Chapel would be.
That question was quickly answered though, as residents and service members mingled together in a relaxed atmosphere of camaraderie and solidarity.
"In my entire Marine Corps career, I've never experienced such a sense of community as I have in Iwakuni," said Station Sergeant Major Sgt. Maj. David Allison. "And no place does it show more than at our Town Hall meetings."
That assessment appears to be a sharp contrast to the Town Hall meetings of the past.
"Before Colonel Darrah (Station Commanding Officer, Col. Dave Darrah) got here, Town Hall's were little more than bickering sessions," said Sgt. James Wilfrom, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron unit diary clerk. "I've been stationed in Iwakuni for six years, and I've never seen morale this high. I think Town Hall meetings are a big part of that. Everyone has always had a chance to be heard, but now, for the first time, it seems like they are being listened to."
During the Town Hall meeting, the attendees, as well as viewers watching television at home on Command Access Channel 5, were given an overview on anthrax, including the steps postal is taking to ensure safety, and a breakdown of how much, why and where money is spent aboard the Station.
"The last Town Hall meeting was devoted almost exclusively to force protection issues," said Lt. Col. Thomas Abel, H&HS commanding officer. "This one didn't have as many immediate security issues. It was a great opportunity for residents to voice other concerns and to bounce ideas off the command."
Those ideas ranged from starting a boxing program at Iwakuni and opening a laser tag center for teens to getting a wider selection of onions at the Commissary.
"The questions at the Town Hall meetings are getting easier," said Darrah. "I feel pretty good about that. It means we are taking care of our people."
And for Darrah, that has always been his number one priority.
"If the community is happy," said Darrah, "then I'm happy."