CAMP ZAMA, Japan (August 16, 2019) -- Seventeen Japanese college students began a four-week professional development opportunity this month as part of the U.S. Army Garrison Japan summer internship program here.

The students were placed at nine different garrison organizations, including the Directorate of Public Works, the library, the Safety Office and the Public Affairs Office.

Karen Matsumoto and Mikako Ohno, information editorial specialists in the Community Engagement section of USAG-J Public Affairs, organized the program.

"Most of [the interns] are looking for opportunities to speak more English, because most of them don't have really authentic opportunities to practice English," Matsumoto said. "Other[s] are looking for internship opportunities in the field they're studying, so they can use [this program] as a stepping stone for looking for jobs in the future."

Ai Masuda is an intern in the Safety Office, which is responsible for workplace safety training, drivers' classes and inspections. Masuda said he hopes to work in the automobile industry in the future, so she found the drivers' classes "very interesting."

Masuda added that she believes it is important for Japanese people to learn English, so she is taking this opportunity to practice her skills.

William Maxwell, director of the Safety Office, said he has two goals for his interns.

"One is to let them use their English; I think that is always very important to them," Maxwell said. "[The] second is to show them many new and different things."

To show his interns as much as possible, Maxwell told his staff to bring the students with them whenever they had an assignment or task.

"For example, on the very first day when they arrived, I had a meeting with the USARJ G3 concerning explosives for a large exercise," Maxwell said. "They knew nothing about the explosives, but I brought them to the meeting so they could hear what's going on and expose them to new things."

In addition to observing that meeting and the drivers' classes, the interns followed the staff to a class on how to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED, and a workplace inspection.

Momoka Yamazaki is an intern assigned to the Public Affairs Office. After studying abroad in Canada, Yamazaki decided to pursue English linguistics, English literature and global studies in college.

"I wanted to continue improving my English skills and also I like to read a lot, so I thought [this internship] would be good to study," Yamazaki said.

Along with the two other Public Affairs Office interns, Yamazaki visited Camp Zama's Kastner Army Airfield to interview Soldiers about their work and got an up-close view of the U.S. Army Aviation Battalion -- Japan's UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

"I had fun interviewing two Soldiers," Yamazaki said. "I [had never seen] real helicopters in my life, so it was cool. We got to get inside and see the controls and stuff, so that was very fun."

Dustin Perry, chief of Command Information for USAG-J Public Affairs, has participated in the program for two years.

"My hope is that [the interns] get something that they can take back with them that will either help them further their professional goals or will also give them experience that they can use in the workforce.

"We've had our interns here specifically get some experience in interviewing other people, because a large part of public affairs, particularly command information, involves telling stories," Perry added. "And that includes print and broadcast journalism."

The public affairs interns learned how to write headlines and create interview questions, which are key elements of print journalism, Perry said. Later, the students will also have the chance to learn how to create videos and take photos.

Providing these meaningful activities to the interns may require additional work, Perry said, but the Army employees who participate in the program receive valuable mentorship experience in the process.

"I get that additional experience of not just doing my day-to-day operations and supervising the people that I always supervise, but also the chance to be a sort of mentor and impart some of the knowledge I've learned in my professional career on to them," Perry said.

After seven years of planning and working on the internship program, Ohno said she has noticed that once-reluctant organizations often have positive things to say about the experience and agree to do it again the next year.

"They learn a lot from the students," Ohno said. "Of course, the students [learn] a lot from us too. But the organizations and staff learn a lot."