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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Call it the white shirts against the olive shirts.

On Thursday, a group of Japanese high school students had Sasebo sailors sweating up and down the basketball court.

The students came from Nagasaki Prefecture Sasebo Yogo School, a school for the mentally and physically handicapped, to play basketball with servicemembers and base residents at the Fleet Fitness Center.

Sixty-one students from the school were slated to tour the naval base on Thursday and Friday in an event sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

The visit was part of a life-skills project at the school, according to MWR.

At the gymnasium, some students lobbed free throws from between their knees as base volunteers rebounded the basketballs. Others put up a tough game of basketball, racing up the court with sailors trailing.

“I’m not going to lie. I play basketball often, and I think I’m pretty good — a lot of other people don’t — but regardless, they’re better than us,” said Seaman Jeffrey Haakenson, who works base security and played against the school’s boys team Thursday.

“I’m sweating bullets up here,” Haakenson said.

Such events are good experiences for servicemembers and help maintain a good relationship between Japan and the U.S. military, said Petty Officer First Class Juan Selvera, who volunteered for the tour.

The school’s students and the base often come together for holiday and cultural events, MWR marketing director Allison Foo said.

“We actually adopted them [as an exchange program] about two years ago,” Foo said.

While on base, the students also toured the library and the naval museum and took in a culinary lesson at the Harbor View Club, she said.

“A bunch of us are going to teach them how to cook hamburgers,” Foo said.


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