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Yokota maintainer video chats with son's class about Operation Tomodachi
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Tech. Sgt. Jason Myers waves to sixth graders at Elsanor Elementary School in Robertsdale, Ala., after a video teleconference to discuss Operation Tomodachi. Their teacher, Jeff Rhodus, had been discussing with his class the recent natural disasters in Japan. Sergeant Myers' son, Miland, is in the class and suggested they talk to his dad since he's stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Sergeant Myers is a structural maintainer with the 374th Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)
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Yokota maintainer video chats with son's class about Operation Tomodachi

Posted 3/24/2011   Updated 3/24/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/24/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Alabama School Teacher Jeff Rhodus had been discussing with his sixth grade class the recent natural disasters in Japan. When the students wanted to know how Americans are helping the recovery efforts, Mr. Rhodus was at a loss.

"We could ask my dad," offered one student, 12-year-old Miland Myers. "He's stationed there."

And so began the effort to set up a video teleconference March 25 between Miland's dad, Tech. Sgt. Jason Myers, and two classrooms of students at Elsanor Elementary in Robertsdale, Ala.

Sergeant Myers chatted with the students for 45 minutes about the American response to help the people of Japan, dubbed Operation Tomodachi, meaning "friends" in Japanese. He told them about how the base has acted as a hub to receive humanitarian relief supplies from all over the globe. In addition, Team Yokota loads those supplies for delivery all over northern Japan aboard its C-130H Hercules aircraft as well as planes and helicopters from other units, other services and even Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs.

Other questions ranged from how it feels to be in an earthquake and the number of aftershocks he's felt, to whether kids were still going to school and how Americans can help from back home.

"They were surprisingly inquisitive for a bunch of 12 year olds," said Sergeant Myers, a structural maintainer with the 374th Maintenance Squadron. "They had genuine concern for the people of Japan. It showed me they didn't just care about video games and that their teacher was helping them connect to world events."

Students took turns asking their questions and Sergeant Myers did his best to answer them. One girl, Danielle, wanted to know how long it might take the Japanese to recover from the disasters.

"I honestly don't know," Sergeant Myers admitted, "but the Japanese people are very resilient and resourceful people. My guess is that they'll come back stronger than they ever were. It's a long road ahead, but we'll help them with whatever we can."

Overall, Sergeant Myers said he wanted the students to be aware of the strong partnership between the United States and Japan.

"It's important for people back home to see that the military isn't just about fighting wars, but also about helping people," he said. "I had a good time talking with the kids and helping them understand what the Air Force does and why we're here.

"This is a big, world event," Sergeant Myers added. "Now those kids have some connection and experience to it. I really hope they got something out of it. I know I did."

After the March 11 earthquake, Sergeant Myers and his wife helped collect clothing items to be donated to people in Niigata Prefecture, about 115 miles northeast of Yokota Air Base.

"When this all happened, we were all recalled to work and I told my troops, 'Okay everyone, this is what we do and why we're here. These are our friends and they need us right now. Let's get to work.'"

The faculty at Elsanor had a similar response and is starting a drive at their school to raise money for the relief efforts in Japan.

"Talking with the students has given our class a better perspective on what's happening in that part of the world," said Mr. Rhodus, whose own son is in the Air Force and stationed in Italy. "Thank you, Sergeant Myers; you've given us a lot to think about today."

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