By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ben Farone, USS George Washington Public Affairs
YOKOHAMA, Japan (NNS) -- First class and chief petty officers from the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS George Washington (CVN 73) visited the Seijyou Hoikuen nursery school and escorted local children to the Kanazawa Zoo, March 13.
The visit came at the request of the Zushi Hayama Lions Club and represented a collaborative effort among chiefs and first classes in their first community relations (COMREL) and engagement event for this year's CPO 365 Phase One training.
"Altogether we had one hundred thirty-six children. And the good part for GW's crew, they were very friendly and the children were friendly to them." said Esther Kiyomi Kaneko, Zushi Hayama Lions Club vice president.
According to Kaneko, the interaction between the students and Sailors, a first for several of them, was a success, helped in no small part by goodie bags delivered by the ship.
"Today being outside the home and meeting English people; some of the children have never seen Americans before. I think they had a good time. And the lollipops and cookies were a big treat to them too!"
Having the opportunity to interact with the Japanese community, as well as demonstrating a true lead-by-example spirit for junior Sailors was a win-win for Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SW/AW) Carlos Vidal, from Shreveport, Louisiana.
"We're the ones who set the tone. When junior Sailors see that we're willing to take some of our time out of our day to do something other than what's required, it kind of lays the foundation and allows the junior Sailors to grow in a way that emulates our senior personnel."
Vidal also noted that despite a language barrier, Sailors and students were able to share a glimpse inside each other's lives.
"The diversity is probably the most important takeaway for me. Two different countries, two different languages but we're still able to come together and share a bit of each other's culture." said Vidal.
Senior Chief Logistics Specialist (SW/AW) Hai Tran from Stockton, California, echoed Vidal's assessment of the day's events, adding that the school visit was not just an opportunity to strengthen ties with George Washington's host country, but to increase camaraderie between the First Class and Chief Petty Officers Messes.
"It's a good opportunity to, first of all interact with the local community and second of all, since we're going as group with CPO 365, it's a good teambuilding event for the chiefs and soon-to-be chiefs. This was my first time to be able to get out and do a COMREL with this ship and I think it went really well."
George Washington (CVN 73) and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.