News: Marines, Henoko citizens compete
Story by Cpl. Anthony Ward Jr
Marines from Camp Schwab participated in a Henoko District tradition, the 38th Annual Henoko District Citizen’s Track and Field Meet Sports Day in Henoko May 15.
The Track and Field Meet Sports Day is primarily a competition between Henoko’s 10 residential sections, although the Marines and their families are always invited to join in the fun,” said Fumio Iha, liaison and community relations specialist for Camp Schwab. “The people of Henoko consider them to be Henoko’s 11th residential section.”
Henoko’s 11th district has incorporated Marines to help challenge the 10 other districts for quite some time, Iha said.
“The event has been taking place since 1973 and helps build good harmony and relations, not only between the different residential sections of Henoko, but with Camp Schwab as well,” Iha said.
Marines participated in seven of the day’s 19 events, winning first place in the the 4x800-meter bike relay, rugby ball bounce relay, 4x200-meter relay and the centipede race, where each member of the team gets down in the pushup position and places their feet on the person’s shoulders behind them. Everyone in the centipede uses their arms to race forward.
“It’s just a big bonding experience,” said Sgt. Tyrone Franklin, an amphibious assault vehicle crewman with 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, which is based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Marines with 3rd Amphibious Assault Bn. are in Okinawa attached to Combat Assault Bn., 3rd MarDiv., III MEF, as part of the Marine Corps’ Unit Deployment Program.
Despite the language barrier, the Marines and citizens communicated with each other and found common ground, said Franklin.
“The people out here are very respectful,” said Franklin. “The respect level, the culture, the environment is just beautiful.
“Being able to interact with Japanese people in events like these is great,” Franklin added.
The sports day allowed both cultures to come together and learn something from each other, said Iha.
“The service members are very nice. They always treat us very well. They are good friends,” said Sachiko Irei, a local participant.
“We always come together with the Marines for sports day,” Irei added. “You can be from (Camps) Hansen, Courtney or Schwab – all the Marines are welcome.”
“It’s a great opportunity for an ongoing cultural exchange,” said Iha. “The Marines and their families are given a chance to interact with the local culture and people, but the local citizens also get to see the Marines in a more personal way.”