CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Camp Zama personnel have been beautifying the entire installation this week in advance of this year’s first open-post event.
The annual spring cleanup normally takes place in April, but this year officials decided to have it earlier before thousands of guests are expected to come here for the Cherry Blossom Festival on March 25.
Master Sgt. Andrew Easterling, lead organizer of the cleanup, said all units and many organizations on post will participate by picking up trash, sweeping sidewalks, and clearing weeds and brush, among other tasks in their respective areas.
Easterling, a native of Mississippi, saw the cleanup as an opportunity to better welcome guests similar to how he grew up embracing the tradition of southern hospitality.
“I look at it as if I’m inviting people to our home,” he said. “And so if I invite you to my home, I want my home to be clean."
The festival will be open to the outside public for the first time in four years following pandemic conditions. Besides blooming flowers, guests will be able to enjoy performances by the U.S. Army Japan Band, children’s activities, DJ music, and food and beverages. The event runs from 1 to 6:30 p.m. and is free to attend.
Pvt. Joseph Hensley, a military dog handler at the 901st Military Police Detachment, helped beautify the area around the front gate on Tuesday along with several other Soldiers.
“You want it to look pretty for all the civilians who will come through,” he said. “As a military base, we have to show a certain level of professionalism.”
Hensley, who is from Houston, arrived in Japan about a week ago. He said he was excited for the upcoming festival as well as being able to experience the country and culture during his time here.
“We don't have these cherry blossom trees,” he said about Texas, “so this will be all new to me."
Staff Sgt. Ben Garnett, a member of the USARJ Band, also lent a hand in sprucing up the Gate 1 area.
While he appreciated the effort in getting the post ready for the festival, Garnett said they must have their best foot forward at all times since many people visit or drive by the installation every day.
“It's important for us to always be conscientious of making that good impression on the locals, because we are guests in their nation,” he said. “And when you are a guest in somebody's country or their house, the rules are the same — keep it tidy."
As for the festival itself, Garnett said the band’s jazz ensemble and rock group are scheduled to perform for the crowds.
Garnett, a vocalist, said the reception they receive from Japanese people during their public performances has been amazing.
“They have always been very appreciative,” he said, “and always want to come and talk to us after the show.”
He said he looks forward to performing again at the festival and continuing to be a good neighbor to the community members outside the gates.
“We love the chance to be able to talk and interact with them as well,” he said. “Not only just for the performance aspect, but to further USARJ’s mission and the Army's mission.”