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Marines toil over elementary grounds

Date Posted: 2004-01-29

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa Japan Marines often participate in projects to benefit the local community through volunteer work and unit functions. Providing guidance to children, conducting clean-ups and improving quality of life are a few of their common efforts.

Here, these projects are often conducted both on and off base, providing Marines an opportunity to reach further into the local communities and develop international ties.

Marine Wing Communications Squadron-18, Marine Air Control Group-18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, recently participated in one such event at the Zukeran Elementary School here Jan. 7-8.

According to Van Dale Furusho, principal, Zukeran Elementary School, the school did not have any military volunteers until a few months ago. With the help of newsletters and unit commanders, the school now has two units who have adopted Zukeran Elementary School as a part of the Partners in Education Program and Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS), Okinawa District, Community Strategic Plan.

Zukeran has a sister school, Arashiro Elementary School, in the local community, and the two have adopted each other. Also, the Ocean Expo Commemorative Park Management Foundation donated trees, flowers, plants and designs to the school, Furusho said, describing other relationships with the local community.

"We appreciate the partnership that we can establish with our military and outside community," he stated.

Wielding rakes, shovels and a team effort, the Marines of MWCS-18 removed weeds, picked up debris, cleaned drainage ditches, and leveled the grounds around a playground, ensuring the safety of the children.

"We're creating a safe and secure environment," said Furusho, a Hakalau, Hawaii native. "When they're safe and secure then they can learn."

According to 2nd Lt. Zachary J. Shaw, commander, Communications Data Platoon, Operations Company, MWCS-18, the work his unit conducted in the two days was just the beginning of their relationship. Besides the labor to improve the school grounds, the unit plans to participate in an after hours reading and mentoring program beginning Jan. 20 to help the children.

Lance Cpl. Mary Brooks, training noncommissioned officer, Maintenance Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, said she volunteered because it sounded like a good project.

Half the project was mentoring the children, which was why many of the volunteers claimed to have participated. Stationed on Okinawa, people are overseas for at least a year and this keeps them busy doing positive things, the Detroit, Mich. native said. "This is a good thing," she added. "These kids belong to our officers, staff NCOs and junior Marines. The Marine Corps is one big family. We take care of each other."

With the help of the local military units, the Zukeran Elementary School will now have a safer playground, mentoring and other future contributions due to the volunteers' efforts.

Brooks described the other volunteers as outstanding. This was not something they had to do. Nothing was forced. Most people were really excited about the mentoring, she explained.

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