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CFAO-Navy receives high honors

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-12-11

The United States Command Fleet Activities Okinawa and the Navy stationed here on the island were presented with the prestigious "Nippon Zenkokai Association 1998 Good Deeds Commendation Award" on November 21, 1998. The award is presented every year to both individuals and groups in many different categories by the Nippon Zenkokai Association, which is a non-profit organization under the control of the office of the Prime Minister of Japan. This year, the Navy captured an amazing four out of the twelve group awards presented. Captain Richard Weyrick of CFAO accepted the award on behalf of the CFAO and Navy on Okinawa during an awards ceremony in Tokyo.

The honors were received for volunteer and community service in the following categories: Contribution to Public Life, Environmental Beautification, Guidance of Youth and Children, and Social Welfare. Numerous community events ranging from participation in local softball tournaments to Okinawan dragon boat races helped to secure the award for the first category. Working together with Katsuren town and other environmental groups on the island, the CFAO and Navy participated in many cleanups and other activities throughout the year. Sailors gave their time to children at local orphanages and handicapped schools to qualify them for the "Guidance of Youth and Children" category, and donations of Christmas gifts, toys, and clothes to both homes for the elderly and to needy children brought them the award for "Social Welfare".

The CFAO has only about 130 active duty personnel, while 2,900 sailors make up the entire Navy here on Okinawa. Despite the small numbers, the Navy's contribution to the local community is the highest per capita of any other service here on the island according to Captain Weyrick. "The sailors, marines and civilian employees of the Navy commands on Okinawa genuinely love the community involvement they are able to do here, and are better neighbors, citizens, and people for that involvement, interaction and international understanding," said Weyrick. The local governments and communities of Okinawa also seem to agree with Weyrick's statements - earlier this year the CFAO received the "Outstanding Community Volunteer- Five Year Award" by the Katsuren Town Social Welfare Association for their numerous volunteer activities. It was the first time the award was presented to a military organization.

The Navy's close relationship with the people of Katsuren Town has been visible for many years. They are heavily involved in many community projects, and are sometimes assisted by former Governor Ota's wife and the granddaughter of the Mayor of Katsuren in planning and protocol. Most recently, the CFAO donated 1,000 books to a new public library in Katsuren. The books came to Okinawa as part of the United States Navy's ongoing "Project Handclasp", which collects various items to be used as donations to different charities. Mayor Shintoku Kurato and Superintendent of Education Mr. Ankichi Uezu both personally thanked the CFAO for their generosity at the library's official opening ceremony.

Assisting the local community in many different functions has not been the United States Navy's only show of volunteerism here on the island. They have also been involved with many on-base volunteer projects. Kadena's Amilia Earhart Intermediate School received twelve computers, which were donated by CFAO, and the Seabees have also given a helping hand with other volunteer activities.

The Navy plans to continue their goodwill services, and feels that their award is shared with everyone that has been involved. Weyrick commented, "Most importantly, the communities we touch are better for our having been here. They truly are most deserving of this special award."

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