Marines and sailors from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni visited Kuroiso Hoikuen, a kindergarten in Iwakuni, June 26, 2012, as part of a community relations effort to share cultures and positively interact with the local community.
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The children eagerly greeted the seven Marines and two sailors with singing, dancing and many smiles.
After the warm welcome, servicemembers joined the children in a singalong.
Then the kids put their English skills on display. At random, the teacher called students to the front of the class to have them count to 15 in English. The students chosen were able to count without hesitation, however, servicemembers were able help out when it came time to call out different colors in English.
Servicemembers got involved by pointing to their shirts and different items around the classroom, asking what color it was and helping the students with identification and pronunciation of that color.
Adam Beyer, one of the organizers of the event, pointed out that community relations events like these are great opportunities for the children “to learn a little bit of English and have fun,” he said.
More importantly, these events help strengthen the relationship between the local population and servicemembers aboard station. The benefit of these community relation events is that “it puts us in a positive light,” said Beyer. “You do one bad thing and that’s the only thing anyone remembers, so we do our part out there to show the community… we can do good things.”
These events are set up with help from Machiko Hamamoto, also known as Mamasan, a Japanese liaison for the station and officiallydesignated Honorary Marine. Hamamoto contacts local schools, hospitals and nursing homes to see if there are any dates available for volunteers to come help.
When she finds an opportunity and gets a specific date, she contacts Beyer, who then finds volunteers for the event. Volunteers are not hard to come by.
“After I get the dates, I request for vehicles and volunteers. I send a mass email and usually within a day or two, I’m full up,” Beyer said.
The willingness of the Marines and sailors to go out and interact with the local community, especially the children, gives these events the influence of maintaining a good relationship with the local population.
What is equally important though is that the children had fun and this experience will be something they will not soon forget.