Marines stationed in Okinawa and the island’s teens found a way to improve ties between the U.S. and Japan, without getting involved in politics. The U.S. Marine Corps conducted a summer English language camp where teenagers could attended. Called the Camp Courtney English Camp, the English language lessons were held from August 11 to 16. In return, the Marines also learned some Japanese words from their students.
Community relations specialist Ichiro Umehara for Camp Courtney started the language camp 13 years ago. When parents in Okinawa who want their children to learn English sought his help, he considered asking assistance from the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in their community. “I started the camp because parents in Okinawa were asking how their kids could learn English,” Umehara recalled.
The Marines agreed to volunteer as their way of giving back to the community. “We have a standing policy to help strengthen and enhance the relationship between Japan and the U.S. military here on Okinawa,” Operations Gunnery Sgt. Lawrence W. Watters said. Watters serves as the team chief at the Civil Affairs, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It’s all about fostering and developing what we already have in place. We need to enhance that relationship every chance we get.”
In return, the Marine volunteers also learned from their students. “I wanted to learn Japanese, and this was a great chance to do that,” said Operations’ Civil Affairs specialist Pfc. Tracey V. Rodriguez. “I got a chance to teach a group of students English and also learn Japanese from them at the same time.” The Marines utilized visual aids and translation software in order to communicate with their students. Besides the annual camp, the Marines also volunteered to conduct a weekly English class, which is also coordinated by Umehara.
This year, the camp had 21 students. “This camp showed me that Marines are nice and kind people,” shared Rinna Ishikawa, who is in her third year of attending the annual camp. They were also given tours of Camp Courtney, Foster and Schwab. This year’s camp held its graduation day in Uruma City and students were given certificates of completion. The ceremony was attended by Uruma Mayor Toshio Shimabukuro and Camp Courtney Commanding Officer Col. Michael W. Taylor.
[via Marine Corps Installations Pacific]