SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Despite the Navy League having about 76,000 members in more than 330 councils in the United States and around the world, its soon-to-be launched council in Sasebo is only the second in Japan.

Sasebo’s Navy League, which is to hold its first organizational meeting Nov. 15, will be akin to a blue-collar version of the Sasebo Wardroom Association, which allows only officers, their spouses and civilians with officer-equivalent status.

“But we won’t have any sort of qualifications like that,” said Jerry Havens, the new council’s coordinating director.

“Also, servicemembers on active duty are not eligible but their spouses and dependents qualify, as do civilians and reservists,” explained Havens, a retired master chief petty officer and chief of Community Services at Sasebo’s Fleet and Family Support Center.

Navy League publications say it was founded in 1902, with encouragement from President Teddy Roosevelt, to educate, motivate and “acquire and display before the citizens … information as to the conditions of our naval and maritime forces.”

“We must awaken interest and support in all matters that aid our maritime capabilities,” reads a mission statement on the Navy League’s Web site.

The Commodore Perry Navy League Council, formed in Tokyo in the 1960s, remains listed as a vibrant, active group. However, despite the thousands of U.S. DOD civilians, sailors and their dependents in Japan, the Tokyo group has been the Navy League’s only presence in Japan.

Havens said the Sasebo Navy League Council likely will lend much of its support to youth-oriented activities such as the JROTC program at Ernest J. King High School, now in its second year. Navy League councils also provide yearly student scholarships and awards.

A goal is to register as many local Japanese as members as base personnel, Havens said. To that end, Takehisa Seki, who owns and operates the Pub Royale in downtown Sasebo, is a co-director whose initial job is to sign up 25 Japanese members by the first meeting Nov. 15. “I absolutely think that this is great,” Seki said, adding that the Navy League is attractive to Japanese because non-U.S. citizens can join as associate members. “We want to help in providing educational opportunities for the bright sailors,” he said.

Seki said the effort has the general endorsement of Japanese in Sasebo’s two largest American-Japanese groups: the U.S.-Japan Association and the USO.

“The communication between those two is thorough, and they have good relationships,” Seki said. “When we asked, there was no resistance, and they said, ‘Let’s cooperate.’”

For more information, or to join the Navy League, Havens said, call him at DSN 252-3109 or DSN 252-3604.

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