MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — While Misawa has the reputation for being a great assignment for families, a new base group has the single noncommissioned officer in mind.

NCO Xtreme — an interim name as members work on choosing an official one — aims to provide companionship and recreational opportunities for unaccompanied or single E-5 through E-9 airmen of any service, according to base officials.

It follows on the heels of Single Airman Xtreme, or SAX, a successful program started in 2004 to get single airmen out of the barracks, providing them with recreational and social opportunities and an affordable way to experience Japan. That group claims between 350 and 400 members, base officials said.

Until recently, there was no similar organization for single NCOs.

“I’m here unaccompanied. I was taking [base-sponsored] tours just to get out of the house,” said Senior Master Sgt. Walter Grudowski, 35th Maintenance Operations Squadron superintendent of maintenance training and one of the fledgling group’s most active members.

After tagging along with mostly couples on those outings, Grudowski is pleased to no longer be the third wheel when it comes to seeing Japan.

“The goal is to allow networking, mentorship and camaraderie for those here unaccompanied,” he said of the new NCO group.

Officials with 35th Services Squadron credit base commander Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy for dreaming up the idea with the NCO program and asking services to support it. The Mokuteki Community Center runs the program.

The group meets the first Saturday of the month at 5 p.m. in the community center, next to the game room.

Since its first meeting in January, the membership list has grown to more than 50 names, Grudowski said. NCOs went to the snow lantern festival last month in Hirosaki and plan another trip to the famous castle town this spring to view the cherry blossoms, he said.

The group also wants to hear trip ideas from other single NCOs in the community, Grudowski said.

Grudowski said NCO Xtreme is a way for single NCOs to get the most out of an assignment in Japan.

“If you get out, enjoy the culture and make some friends, your assignment here will go by faster and will be a lot more enjoyable,” he said.

For more information, call the community center at DSN 226-4128 or e-mail Grudowski at:

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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