By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJuly 31, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 31, 2019) -- With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics less than a year away, many residents in Japan are making preparations to spectate at the games, but some community members here hope to have a direct hand in one of the events come competition day.
Nine people from Camp Zama volunteered during the cycling road race pre-trial event July 21 in the neighboring Sagamihara City, through which a 19-mile segment of the men's 152-mile and women's 92-mile race will run next year.
"The purpose of the trial event was to enhance the operational capability toward making the Tokyo Olympics a success," said Yusuke Tomizawa, a member of the Sagamihara City staff.
Approximately 600 volunteers participated in the pre-trial race, assisting with tasks such as installing and removing equipment on the road, and controlling and guiding spectators and pedestrians, Tomizawa said. The participated volunteers were very motivated and genuinely excited to help with the event, he said.
"We are very grateful to see not only Japanese volunteers but also non-Japanese volunteers because one of our goals [in Sagamihara City] is the realization of a multicultural community," said Tomizawa.
Sagamihara City will be looking for volunteers again when the competitive event takes place next summer, Tomizawa said.
"We would definitely like Camp Zama residents to join us again during the Olympics," he said.
Spc. Christopher Keeling's job was to set up road cones and barriers to protect both the racers and spectators during the race. Keeling, assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said he eagerly took the chance to volunteer for the event.
"I wanted to help the relations between the U.S. Army and our Japanese hosts," said Keeling. "I found that, even with a language barrier, we got the tasks done and knew what to do."
Keeling said he was proud to work alongside other staff and spectators because he said it allowed him see that the Japanese really liked the idea of U.S. Soldiers being there to help.
"I really believe that helping the community out shows that you care and respect them as a host," said Keeling. "I'm lucky to be here, [so] I want to pay the community back for being in such a wonderful place."