HENOKO, OKINAWA, Japan — Henoko community leaders hosted a farewell party June 13 for Col. Rick Hall at the Henoko/Schwab Friendship Committee Meeting 2014 held at the Henoko Community Plaza.
The local community leaders held the party as a send-off for Col. Rick Hall, the commanding officer of 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and camp commander for Camp Schwab. They also expressed their appreciation for the role Hall played in strengthening the relationship between Camp Schwab and the local surrounding community.
“He preserved and further promoted what he inherited from previous commanders,” said Munekatsu Kayo, district mayor of Henoko. “He takes good care of his family, of his unit and the community.”
While under Hall’s command, Marines at Camp Schwab volunteered for cleanups within the community, participated in sumo-wrestling tournaments, visited and cleaned nursing and care facilities, and remained active as part of the Henoko community, according to Masato Sugiyama, Nago Defense Office director, Okinawa Defense Bureau.
The active presence of Marines assigned to Camp Schwab in Henoko has created a rare bond between the camp and the city, according to Sugiyama.
“I have been to many U.S. camps and bases in Japan, but as far as I know, Camp Schwab is the only one that is recognized as a section of the host community,” said Sugiyama. “I think Camp Schwab is very special.”
As a token of friendship, the local community leaders presented Hall with a certificate of appreciation and a new 11th District flag before Hall’s change of command ceremony that took place June 27. The flag serves as a replacement for the flag presented to Camp Schwab in 1999, when Henoko recognized Camp Schwab as its 11th residential section.
“I often say that we are all the same community,” said Hall, a Mankato, Minnesota, native. “The flag presented shows that we are part of the community.”