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Engineer Marines build bridges for future, teach English to kids

Date Posted: 2004-02-26

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan Marines of 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, are known for their role in supporting combat operations, clearing the way and allowing Marines to get to where they need to be. They're well trained and they know the jobs they have to do.

When they're not in the field, these Marines are hard at work training in the rear area or doing other mission-oriented tasks. For some of these motivated hard chargers however, the work doesn't end when they leave their sections. A handful of these young devildogs volunteer to take off their cammies, go out to the surrounding community and help build the friendly relationship between the U. S. Marine Corps and the Okinawans we call neighbors.

The Marines volunteered to teach English to the children of Iha Elementary School Feb. 4 in Ishikawa City. The Marines arrived at the school and immediately went to the principal's office to be briefed on what they were going to be doing. While they were going over the lesson plan, the Marines were served a warm cup of green tea.

"I've been to the principal's office plenty of times but I never thought I'd do it in Japan," said Cpl. Justin T. Morgan, bulk fuel specialist, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group.

The Marines were then split into groups of two and introduced to the teachers who would be helping them teach the children. Once the teachers introduced themselves to the Marines, they went back to their classrooms to prepare for the class to begin.

As the bell rang the Marines looked over the lesson plan one last time. Shortly thereafter, three excited Okinawan children poked their heads into the principal's office. In English, the children told the Marines: "Please follow me" as they led them to the classroom.

When the Marines reached the classrooms they were greeted by more smiling faces. After introducing themselves by saying "Good afternoon. My name is Nice to meet you," the Marines played a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors with the children. They would say "Hi" and introduce themselves and afterwards thank each other for playing the game.

After Rock-Paper-Scissors the Marines helped the children make heart-shaped, red or pink and white Valentines Day baskets. Together the Marines and children wove the paper baskets and filled them with candies. It is a little questionable though if the Marines helped the children or vice versa.

"I had like three of the kids helping me make my basket and I still couldn't figure it out," Morgan said.

Whether doing the teaching or being taught, the Marines all expressed the good time they had interacting with the Okinawan children, who were elated just by seeing the new American faces.

"This is just one more of the many fun extravaganzas for 9th ESB at Iha Elementary," said Lt. Steven T. Orren, chaplain.

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