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Sailors from the Sasebo Junior Sailor Association play with residents of the Koyoryo children's home in Omura.
Sailors from the Sasebo Junior Sailor Association play with residents of the Koyoryo children's home in Omura. (Teri Weaver / S&S)
Sailors from the Sasebo Junior Sailor Association play with residents of the Koyoryo children's home in Omura.
Sailors from the Sasebo Junior Sailor Association play with residents of the Koyoryo children's home in Omura. (Teri Weaver / S&S)
Seaman Eric Jones, 19, of Snellville, Ga., works on a Valentine's Day card with some of the children of the Koyoroyo children's home in Omura. Jones, a member of Sasebo's AFN unit, is a member of the base's Junior Sailor Association.
Seaman Eric Jones, 19, of Snellville, Ga., works on a Valentine's Day card with some of the children of the Koyoroyo children's home in Omura. Jones, a member of Sasebo's AFN unit, is a member of the base's Junior Sailor Association. (Teri Weaver / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Last Saturday, about 20 Americans from Sasebo rode an hour to Omura to visit a local children’s home.

The afternoon of volleyball, dodgeball and drawing was similar to many visits by military groups who want to contribute to the Japanese community.

But Saturday’s visit to the Koyoryo children’s home was different in one respect: It was organized by young, junior sailors from Sasebo Naval Base.

Sasebo’s Junior Sailor Association was formed last year to give younger servicemembers an opportunity both to contribute to the community and to organize and run their own events, according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Cole, one of the group’s founders.

The group’s membership is limited to sailors ranked E-1 to E-5, though they invite participation from all parts of Sasebo’s community, Cole said.

“The junior guys run the show,” said Cole, who also works in the public affairs office for Commander, Task Force 76 in Sasebo. “We want to be empowered to do our own thing.”

The social organization got its start last year with a “spring fling” barbecue that drew more than 100 people, Cole said. In the past year, the group has adopted the children’s home, started collecting dues and made contributions to other groups on base, he said.

Most of all, Cole said, the group wants to give younger sailors an alternative to single sailor programs and other groups run by senior troops. But the group is relying on their noncommissioned officers for advice about running the organization and is getting support from many other parts of the community, he added.

On Saturday, the group that went to the children’s home included teachers, students and dependents in addition to about six sailors. Cole said they typically get at least 20 sailors on such trips, though this group proved smaller, in part because many of the base’s ships are at sea.

Seaman Apprentice Alonzo Dunkentell, 20, of Shreveport, La., said he joined the group shortly after arriving at Sasebo four months ago.

“I didn’t just want to come to Japan and not make friends and learn about the culture,” he said after taking a break from playing with the kids on Saturday. “I would hate to come over here for my two years and take nothing back with me.”

Seaman Eric Jones, 19, of Snellville, Ga., said the group offers an alternative to going out or sitting around on the weekends.

“I just wanted to do something else, other than staying in all weekend,” he said. “And this is something neat to do.”

The group’s dues are minimal, $20 or less depending on rank. The next big event likely will be a membership campaign along with another springtime barbecue, Cole said. The group also has organized a study group to encourage younger sailors to take more Navy leadership classes.

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