Joint team brings orphanage to Misawa

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --

The Hirosaki Aiseien Orphanage visited Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 11, for an action packed day with U.S. service members and fast jets.

The 29 children and nine staff members experienced American fast food at the Exchange food court then, with bright eyes and full bellies, proceeded on their adventure into an aircraft hangar, greeted by the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Demonstration Team, Navy, Army and Marine personnel.

The joint volunteers, some at Misawa for exercise Northern Viper, showed the orphans a munitions load competition before getting up close and personal with the F-16 Fighting Falcon of the PACAF Demo Team.

"We are ambassadors of the U.S. and it is our responsibility to keep this relationship with our host nation strong, said Staff Sgt. Fernando Andres-Miguel, the 35th Operations Group knowledge operations manager. "Our wish to support the local community motivated us to make this event perfect for the kids, but also reinforces the rich and unique bond we have with Japan."

The children got to interact with more than just Airmen this year, which Staff Sgt. Jonathan Mook explained made the event over the top, developing trust and familiarity with uniforms they typically don't see in northern Japan.

"The event is significant on both sides," added Mook, a 35th OG resource advisor. "Over 25 volunteers got to hang out with amazing kids and learn more about the culture right outside our gate, but more importantly we are strengthening trust between each other."

The 35th Operations Group began visiting the Hirosaki Orphanage in 2004 to bring gifts and American holiday foods.

“In 2016, the OG Japanese liaison approached myself and Staff Sgt. Mook with the idea to bring the children from the orphanage to the base; we jumped on board with the idea and here we are,” Andres-Miguel said.

This was the second year the duo hosted the children, but added it was an overall Team Misawa effort.

"I had so much fun," an orphan from the Hirosaki Aiseien Orphanage explained. "I've never experienced anything like this!"

Events like these promote cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Japan and strengthen the alliance beyond the military level. Andres-Miguel described the event also encouraged communication between one another, which is vital to both sides.

“We hope this visit will not only encourage the children to go outside their local areas when they are older to seek careers encompassing a diverse community, but to also have the opportunity to engage in conversation with us,” Andres-Miguel said. “Communication is key in any relationship and we see this as a great opportunity for them to practice and vise-versa.”