USS Kitty Hawk volunteers clean up Yokosuka
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Willie Williams was fishing cigarette butts from cracks in the Yokosuka City sidewalk Friday when an elderly Japanese woman thanked him — in English.
“Another woman thanked me in Japanese,” said the petty officer third class on the USS Kitty Hawk. “I think people really appreciate what we’re doing out here.”
The “Keep Our City Clean” service project kicked off Friday morning when 89 volunteers from the Kitty Hawk showed up to pick up garbage and litter from the Yokosuka streets. With blessings from the Yokosuka City council, Kitty Hawk volunteers plan to conduct off-base cleanups on the second and fourth Fridays of the month indefinitely.
This “highly visible” effort is hoped to ease some of the recent tension between Yokosuka residents and the U.S. Navy after the Jan. 3 robbery and killing of a 56-year-old Yokosuka woman, allegedly at the hands of a Kitty Hawk airman, said Kitty Hawk Airman Miguel Liera.
“We want to make things better,” Liera said. “We want to show the people of Yokosuka that it’s our city, too, and that we care about it.”
The turnout doubled what was expected, said Lt. Cmdr. Terrence Dudley, the aircraft carrier’s spokesman.
“We thought 40-60 people would show up and we ended with about 90,” Dudley said. “We’re really happy with that.”
Volunteers worked their way from the base’s main gate to Shioiri Station, shaking the bushes and turning over rocks to gather garbage. Petty Officer 3rd Class Kerry Fritts speared cigarette butts with a toothpick.
They also took a turn down Dobuita Dori, which forms the backbone of the “Honch” nightlife district, a popular spot among base personnel.
It was Kitty Hawk chaplain Michael Schutz’s idea to clean up the Honch, as it can be a place where sailors get into trouble, he said. But the most important part of the project is visibility, he added.
“We do projects every month that go unnoticed,” Schutz said.
The volunteers made their way down Yokosuka’s popular “Blue Street” before returning to the gate.
For his part, Airman Carlos Orona says they accomplished something Friday that you can’t fit into a garbage bag.
“Hopefully this makes us look better in the eyes of the community,” he said. “And maybe someone will realize that we’re not all bad people.”