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    Photo By Yoshie Makiyama | Col. Jeffrey L. Hammond, deputy commander, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, gives...... read more read more



    Story by Yoshie Makiyama 

    Marine Corps Installations Pacific

    After Japan eased coronavirus restrictions, Marine Corps Installations Pacific started to vigorously tackle its community relations activities more than ever. They are encouraging Okinawa and Japanese communities to have more understanding of the things that occur inside the fence.

    On Aug. 30, 2022, students from Kinjo Gakuin University, Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, took advantage of the opportunity to visit Camp Foster during their trip to Okinawa as part of their Mass Media Seminar course.

    The seminar is run by Masafumi Isono, faculty of Global and Media Studies, and 11 students came along. Although he has led students every year to Okinawa, this is the first time crossing the fence line.

    "While we study issues of the U.S. bases on Okinawa, we only hear the Japanese side of the stories." Isono explained the purpose of their visit, saying one side of the story is not appropriate and both sides need to be heard.

    Since the students were from an all-female university, Kristen L. Tull, community relations officer, G7, Government and External Affairs, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, prepared for them a special session, a women’s leadership initiative. She invited eight panelists who were female officers and enlisted personnel from the Marine Corps and Navy.

    "I wanted to present a variety of women, representing different services and professions," said Tull. "Each woman has had a different experience. Those experiences will bring different perspectives to the questions the students ask."

    When the students arrived at the venue, Col. Jeffrey L. Hammond, deputy commander, MCIPAC, welcomed them and said, “This will not be the last of these events, as we transition out of a COVID environment, we plan on continuing this type of effort.”

    As a father of two daughters, he has made it a priority to discuss with them at the end of each day what impactful, meaningful things he did that day, hoping it will guide them to want to contribute to society when they find a job.

    During the question-and-answer session, students asked questions they prepared in advance. However, those questions were not provided to the panelists ahead of time. All the panelists, hence, gave their full attention on listening to what the students were to ask.

    A lot of questions were related to hardships the panelists have encountered being stationed in Okinawa and their likes and dislikes. They all shared similar feelings being away from home in the middle of the ocean, but said technology helps and also people in Okinawa are nice and the island is beautiful. Some mentioned the cultural difference, such as a slower paced lifestyle, but that it provides a good opportunity to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings.

    There were also questions regarding their careers. When asked what the best social contributions for their mission was, Capt. Sherifa C. Fuller, logistics officer with 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company at Camp Hansen, replied that it was when there was a disaster, she helped organize evacuations, extra food and construction, she felt that she was literally helping people.

    Once the students began to warm up to the panelists, their questions took a more journalistic turn. One of the questions was what the most important consideration on U.S. military bases' external community relations for local residents and media is. Tull answered that it is mutual understanding and respect. She believes that will form true friendships that last a lifetime and have a positive outlook on what the Marine Corps does in Okinawa.

    At the end of the question-and-answer session, when a student asked about issues of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)/perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), contaminated water, Tull firmly stated that by taking every measure, they work with the local government to ensure it is at a safe level. She emphasized they want to keep the island safe for everyone.

    "We have babies, too," word from Tull, a mother, who gave birth and is raising her own children in Okinawa.

    Once all the questions were asked by the students, it was the panelists turn to ask. They all seemed curious about the Japanese school system, such as classes, number of students, years of study until graduation, how the students live, dorm, apartment or home and sport teams. They were surprised at the number of female-only schools in Japan.

    "I was hoping to hear about the panelists' success stories since it was a women-only event, but on the contrary, I was really happy when the panelists asked us about Japan," said Miina Kondo, freshman, whose future goal is to be a news anchor in Tokyo. "It was unexpected in a good way. I realized that they cared about Japan."

    In a friendly atmosphere, when Navy Capt. Paulette T. Cazares, director for Department of Mental Health at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, asked students what are the challenges for women in Japan to advance in careers to the next level, the students seemed hesitant but collectively replied "Enduring. However, we, ourselves, will change the world."

    Cazares, a psychiatrist, posed another question, addressing something which may yet be the greatest occupational gender hurdle in the world, maternity leave. Students replied that Japanese female workers usually get at least one year maternity leave. Cazares noted that while the U.S. Navy had at one time the longest maternity leave of all four services, 18 weeks, all four services have now aligned at 12 weeks. She continued, maternity leave is still uncommon in general and a big barrier for career advancement of women in the U.S.

    "It's important they are all aware of the challenges they will face. If someone really wants to advance in their career, anticipating those challenges can help people not only prepare, but overcome them," Cazares explained.

    "They are courageous to come, so we want to encourage them to ask questions. It's important that we have these exchanges. We all are human beings and have common humanities," Cazares said.

    LT. Abigail C. Khushf, Navy C-12 aircraft pilot, paid very close attention to the students' questions saying she knows how intimidating it is to speak a different language, and not be understood the first time is very discouraging.

    Khushf remembered how scared and uncertain she was when she was in their shoes 10 years ago. "We are all on this journey in different stages. Nothing is different. They are in very similar circumstances. The encouragement that we can provide each other is substantial. We can really do good work together."

    "Never give up," said Khushf. She hopes that in 10 years, some of the students from this group accomplish their dreams and will be sitting as a panelist and telling someone else "it's possible."

    Yuna Tabata, a Kinjo Gakuin junior, said that she had a fearful image of Marines, but the panelists were all female and the way they listened attentively and answered their questions sincerely eased her tension.

    "I know that today's event would not bring us any closer to solving international issues, but I feel that it did bring two (countries) closer together even if only a little. If this circle continues to expand, it will be a big step forward on international issues." Tabata continued, "It was an opportunity for me to think about the (U.S military) base issues and take a positive attitude, rather than denying it all."

    After the panel session, Kondo stated that she strongly thinks that women's success in the U.S. military is what Japan should aim for as well. She felt that the panelists treated their questions not from just a mere student, but as an equal woman to another woman.

    "There's a difference in the weight of information from someone who's actually been there and done that, and someone who's just seen it."

    Isono stated at the end of the session,"We are all human beings. Even though our roles are different, we are all living here as the same human beings. Having such an awareness and deepening the bond between ourselves is the starting point for solving various problems. Above all, we know too little about U.S. military personnel in Okinawa and how they usually live and feel."

    “Questioning the female military leaders in person, hearing from them and interacting with them can be a truly valuable experience for the students and will be the absolute best asset for them to have a global perspective in their future,” Isono said.




     磯野教授は「沖縄の米軍基地の問題を研究しても、日本側の話しか聞こえてきません」 と言い、一方の立場からの話だけでは不十分であり、双方の話を聞く必要があると、訪問の目的を説明。



















     「決してあきらめないで」とクシュフ大尉。10年後、このグループの学生の何人かが夢をかなえ、パネリストとして、他の誰かに 「それは実現できるんだよ」と伝えていることを彼女は願っている。


     「今日の機会で国際的な問題が解決に近づくわけではありませんが、2つ(の国)が少しでも近づいた気がします。この輪がどんどん広がっていくことが、前進への大きな一歩になるはずです。」 田畑さんは、また「(米軍)基地問題を否定的に捉えるのではなく、前向きな姿勢で考える事が出来るきっかけになりました」と続けた。







    Date Taken: 01.18.2023
    Date Posted: 04.19.2023 20:10
    Story ID: 442885
    Location: OKINAWA, JP

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