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Single Marines cruise the strip

Date Posted: 2004-08-27

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan — Ten Marines, each new to the island, visited Kokusai Street in Naha for a day-long trip with Marine Corps Community Services Single Marine Program Aug. 14.

The SMP consists of single Marines who orchestrate recreational activities for other single Marines.

Program coordinators wanted to give Marines who are new to Okinawa an opportunity to get off the base to see the many different cultures displayed at Kokusai, explained Sgt. Rosa M. Hernandez, SMP president.

The trip gave Marines a way to experience real Okinawan culture, unlike many establishments outside the gate that cater to the U.S. military, explained Pfc. Juston Tredo, an administrative clerk for Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron-1, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

“It was nice to go to a place where there weren’t many Americans,” Tredo said. “It showed me what Okinawa is really like.”

The trip was a bit of a culture shock for Lance Cpl. Melody Norton, also an administrative clerk from MWHS-1.

“Kokusai was the first time I’ve been around massive amounts of Okinawans, and I was a little uneasy at first,” Norton said. “Once I started going in shops and trying to talk to people, I realized they were very nice people and eager to help with anything I needed.”
The open fish market on Kokusai was a nice reminder of home for Norton, who grew up on the beach front of New Jersey.

“The strong, salt water smell really took me back,” Norton said. “It was a real surprise to see all the colorful and exotic fish at the market.”

According to Norton, visiting Kokusai with the SMP was a great experience because it offered lots of things to see and do.

Many Marines who come to Okinawa do so to experience new things and cultures but often end up sitting in the barracks and doing nothing, explained Sgt. Necole Edwards, vice president of the SMP.

“Kokusai is a place that has examples of many different cultures,” Edwards remarked. “There are Chinese shops, Indian restaurants, and of course, Japanese businesses to explore.”

According to Edwards, all the Marines on the trip gained a genuine respect of the culture and had a great time, which helps the SMP to keep young people coming to its activities.

For more information about how to become part of the Single Marine Program, contact Hernandez at 645-1165 or via e-mail at hernandezrm@mcbbutler.usmc.mil.

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