MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
While the 35th Fighter Wing and 3rd Air Wing share goals for cooperation to promote greater mutual understanding and trust, squadrons find other ways than operationally to foster the bond.
Jido-kan, meaning “elementary student center,” is a program which started a year ago. Although it’s headed by the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, Airmen of all squadrons can join the effort to strengthen relationships with the Japanese nationals through English lessons.
“[My squadron] wanted a way to give back to the community,” said 2nd Lt. Jacob McGill, the 35th CES chief of program development. “It is often easy to focus only on what impacts you directly; this program provides an outlet to expand and help others.”
During the program, Misawa Airmen and grade schoolers interact through songs, reading and studying flashcards.
“The activities that take place vary,” said McGill. “I believe it helps grow the bond by fostering strong local ties to the community. The program allows Misawa to give back to the local community, thus strengthening our relationship.”
The program is held twice a month at Okamisawa Grade School and gives children the opportunity to be comfortable with their English, while also understanding the American culture.
“I think it is interesting the kids are learning English at such an early age,” said Airman 1st Class Ryan Friel, a 35th Communications Squadron cyber transportation technician. “In America, we learn some nursery rhymes like Frere Jacques, but we do not get to learn a whole new language.”
Friel said the program provides interaction going further than just learning English out of a book.
He added by sitting down with the children he sees the cultural differences Japanese and Americans have that separate each other, but Friel believes exposing children at a young age helps develop cultural friendships for the future.
“As the Japanese kids are exposed to Americans, they become more comfortable with us,” Friel said. “If they are used to us by the age of 10, they [may be] comfortable with us when they are ages 30 or 40.”
Service members like Airman 1st Class Daniel Harrison, a 35th CS cyber transport technician, said he knows the importance of community outreach to the 35th Fighter Wing.
“Our relationship with the community is important,” said Harrison. “If our positive community relationship did not exist, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish the mission, because we depend on each other through contracting services and teaching each other our respective languages.”
As a future goal, McGill said he hopes the program will reach multiple schools for greater community impact.
For more information on how to get involved with the Jido-kan program, call 226-5011.