Ok, so here comes my first BLOG…Blog, not exactly sure what that means, but writing I will go. I will start by stating I fully understand the strategic importance of Yokota Air Base to our nation and our partners within the western Pacific Region. I also understand how our day-to-day activities are critically important to the readiness and preparedness required to provide a rapid response to natural disasters, humanitarian aid/disaster relief functions or other more direct military operations. Furthermore, I realize the aviation business is an inherently dangerous business and we must be skilled and diligent in the profession of aviation and aviation support. And for the record, after three and half years I am very proud to have had the privilege to work side-by-side with the warriors of Yokota Air Base.
With all of that said, for a brief moment I want to go in a slightly different direction and talk about FUN! That’s right, FUN! And I’m not talking about the type of fun we have at wing staff meeting, or processing reports. That’s work, just to be clear. Instead I will talk about how living on base on Yokota has been fun. After eighteen years of active duty service, Yokota was my family’s first experience of living on-base. At first, the close proximity of the garden units took a little getting used to, but we were fortunate and had great neighbors. Then shortly after we arrived, a friend showed me the Civil Engineering wood pile and from there our experience at Yokota greatly improved. With a little creative construction we soon had a fire pit worthy to call our own. Of course, no self-respecting fire pit gathering spot goes without a name, so we opened the, “Feathered Prop Bar and Grill.” One of the coolest experiences of living on base has been the times when my wife and I simply lit a fire and plopped down in the backyard with a glass of wine. Then as people wandered by, we would hail a greeting and offer a cold beer. It didn’t take long before the backyard was filled with people and laughter.
During the three and a half years we’ve lived here, the backyard fire pit has been the site of typhoon evacuation planning, a retirement ceremony, newcomer welcome dinners, several going away parties, promotion celebrations, the Chase Rice concert after party, Musashimurayama Friendship Club dinner and countless other unplanned events. The greatest part of all these gatherings was the sense of community and togetherness that flowed. You’d be amazed at how many people really do know the words to John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads.” A good brisket, chicken fried steak burn or hamburgers with all the sides and fixings people contributed made each and every meal seem like a Sunday Church gathering meal. And who can forget a late night snack of bacon and pancakes cooked over an open fire!
Outdoor movies, karaoke with a broom, and the newlywed game often broke the ice and sparked conversation. For me the part I most enjoyed about our imaginary bar and grill was the opportunity to hear other people’s stories. A key point to remember is one must have the ability to laugh at yourself. Let’s face it, we all make mistakes and have embarrassing moments, so have a little faith and share a tale. So my parting advice to you, readers of this thing called a blog…get out, drag a grill out and have a block party. Get to know your neighbors, share a burger, beer or coke and laugh with a friend. Because part of building a strong community is the ability to connect with each other…and for me a key part of that came from the FUN we had around an old Weber grill turned fire pit. Happy cooking!
-LtCol Paul Kirk, 374th Ops Group Deputy Commander