Sept 26, 2013 -- MIYAGI, Japan - Marines and sailors with Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, trained day and night for nearly three weeks, through favorable and unfavorable weather conditions. With the training a success, the Marines shifted focus to the surrounding community.
The service members visited citizens throughout Miyagi prefecture, Japan, Sept. 10-12 following the conclusion of live-fire training during Artillery Relocation Training Program 13-2.
The battery, with 1st Bn., 12th Marines, is currently assigned to 3rd Bn., 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
The Marines and sailors visited Asaina Gakuen, a facility for mentally handicapped adults, and the Ohira Manyo Kodomoen nursery home, along with participating in a cultural tour of the city of Sendai.
The service members played games, participated in a scavenger hunt, ran in relay races, and dressed up in costumes with the residents and staff of Asaina Gakuen.
“I thought it was cool to see everyone dressed up, wearing wigs and having a good time,” said Lance Cpl. Kagney W. Alexander, a field artillery cannoneer with the battery. “It was a good time to (relax) and let loose.”
Yet the battery was not there just to have fun. Another reason for the visit was to perform general grounds keeping and assist clean up around the facility.
Service members were happy to lend a hand, according to Cpl. Zachery S. Knoebel, a field artillery cannoneer with the battery.
At the nursery home Sept. 11, the service members had the opportunity to play with the children and help prepare a traditional food known as “mochi.”
Mochi is a Japanese food item made out of rice pounded into a paste. The service members assisted preparing the mochi in two large mortars, called “usu,” while using large mallets known as “kine.”
“It’s funny because I’ve seen those (mallets) before in stores but had no idea that’s what they’re used for,” said Gunnery Sgt. Steven C. Howk, a field artillery operations man with 3rd Bn., 12th Marines. “It was great, and if I can find a smaller (mallet) and bowl, I’ll probably make some at home.”
In addition to making mochi, the service members played the board game Othello with the kids, and competed against them in a foot race.
Grouped into pairs, the Marines and sailors’ legs were tied together to add an additional element to the challenge.
Following the time spent volunteering throughout Miyagi prefecture, the Marines of Battery C participated in a cultural tour that took them to numerous historical sites across the city of Sendai.
The battery learned about the community’s path to recovery after the devastation of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which left more than 25,000 people dead or missing along Japan’s eastern coast.
“I’m amazed at how much of the land was covered (by water) when it happened,” said Howk. “It’s very impressive to see how far they’ve come in two years.”
Following a boat tour of the different islands in Matsushima Bay, the service members explored the Zuiganji Temple area, Zuihoden Temple and Sendai Castle.
The overall experience was informative and helped the service members gain a better appreciation of the unique culture of Miyagi prefecture, according to Howk.
“The time we’ve been spending in the community has been a good cultural exchange and good learning experience,” said Howk. “I’ve had a good time and will be going on more of these trips.”