By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJuly 19, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 19, 2019) -- It is halfway through the evening at a Japanese outdoor festival, and the food booth where four U.S. Soldier volunteers are working the grill is running low on chicken.
The Soldiers, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Sagami General Depot, have been at Aioi Park in Sagamihara City, grilling hot dogs and chicken skewers known as "yakitori" for festivalgoers since the morning. The line of customers stretches impossibly long.
Then, the proprietor of the booth makes an announcement: "We apologize, our supply of 2,000 yakitori has just sold out."
Staff Sgt. David Shores said he and his fellow Soldiers were at Aioi Park July 14 to provide support as a way to reinforce the relationship the Army shares with its nearby neighbors outside the gate at Sagami Depot.
Many of the thousands of community members in attendance expressed their appreciation for the support Shores and the other Soldiers provided, he said.
"It's a great festival, and I am happy to be part of the event," said Shores.
Shores said he really enjoyed being part of the festival because it gave him and the other Soldiers the chance to work closely and interact directly with local community members.
"It reinforces the bond, trust and relationships we have with the Japanese people," said Shores.
It is Shores' hope that the Japanese people who meet and talk to U.S. service members at cultural events like the festival see it as proof that both countries have a strong partnership, he said.
Capt. Frederick Sherman, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 38th ADA, said one of the great things about working on Sagami Depot--the "backyard of Sagamihara City," as he calls it--is opportunities like the festival in which the Army gets to partner with the Japanese community.
The 38th ADA has been doing these types of partnership engagements with the Japanese community since the unit stood up in October 2018, Sherman said. Getting Soldiers to volunteer for events is an easy process, he said.
"All of my Soldiers genuinely want to spend time with the Japanese community," said Sherman. "They are having a great time behind the grill."
Sherman said the Sagamihara community has had "nothing but open arms" for the Soldiers since they started volunteering.
"[We've had] nothing but the best experience with the local community," said Sherman.
Sherman said he would like to continue to enhance the partnership with the local community and would like the Japanese people to know that, regardless of what may be going on in the world, they are "here to support the local community and Japan as a nation."
Yoshiaki Kurasawa, a resident of a neighboring community and a liaison to Sagami Depot, said his community has been inviting leadership from the Army installation to local festivals for more than a decade, but this was the first year that Soldiers volunteered to help behind the scenes.
Kurasawa said he and his community appreciate the Soldiers' efforts to support the festival, and that they truly enjoy interacting with them.
"We much prefer having the Soldiers be part of the festival rather than being guests," said Kurasawa.
Kurasawa said he hopes to continue to interact with the Soldiers at future events so that the U.S. and Japan can continue to develop their partnership.