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Good Neighbors: Wisconsin Air National Guard members volunteer during deployment

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Timothy Dupke, Wisconsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing ordnance technician, carries a child from the Midori School-Age Program on his shoulders in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. Dupke and other Airmen from the group organized several games and Easter-themed activities for the children to play in an effort to interact with the local community during their time on island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Timothy Dupke, Wisconsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing ordnance technician, carries a child from the Midori School-Age Program on his shoulders in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. Dupke and other Airmen from the group organized several games and Easter-themed activities for the children to play in an effort to interact with the local community during their time on island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

The Easter Bunny surprises children from the Midori School-Age Program in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. Members from the Wisconsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing organized a visit to the center in order to interact with the local community during their time on the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

The Easter Bunny surprises children from the Midori School-Age Program in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. Members from the Wisconsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing organized a visit to the center in order to interact with the local community during their time on the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

A child from the Midori School-Age Program transfers a plastic egg from one spoon to another during a relay race in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. The relay race was one of several games and activities set up for local children by members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

A child from the Midori School-Age Program transfers a plastic egg from one spoon to another during a relay race in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. The relay race was one of several games and activities set up for local children by members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

Children from the Midori School-age Program hunt for Easter eggs in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. Members of the Wisonsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing set up an afternoon of Easter-themed games and activities for the children in order to share a bit of American culture and interact with the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

Children from the Midori School-age Program hunt for Easter eggs in Okinawa City, Japan, March 26, 2015. Members of the Wisonsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing set up an afternoon of Easter-themed games and activities for the children in order to share a bit of American culture and interact with the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

KANDENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing decided that they wanted to do their part in being good neighbors during their stay on Okinawa.

By the time they leave, 40 of their members will have logged at least two hours each with the Midori School-Age Program in nearby Okinawa City.

Chief Master Sgt. James Schiferl and Master Sgt. Scott Ebert, who helped organize the efforts, said they still have a waiting list of Airmen who wish they had more time to volunteer.

"We just want to be good members of the community even though we are only going to be here a short period of time," Schiferl said. "We want to show our appreciation for people in the community."

Ebert said his initial concern was that the language barrier, and cultural nuances, might stilt the first interaction with the local children. But he laughs now when he recalls what happened during the first meeting with the kindergartners through fourth graders.

"There was no ice breaking at all," he said, adding that the children weren't shy and immediately began interacting with the Airmen.

The first few visits centered on games the Okinawan children were familiar with, including a winner-takes-all version of "rock, papers, scissors," and an incredibly energetic game of dodgeball.

Ebert said it was also an opportunity for the Airmen to learn about Japanese culture.

"We had snacks with them ... tea and wafer cookies that weren't as sweet as we're used to," he said. "And it was amazing how disciplined they are."

During their most recent visit in late March, the Airmen decided to host an Easter-themed party, complete with the Easter Bunny and hidden plastic eggs full of candy.

Harumi Shingaki, Midori School-age Program chief supervisor, said the children loved their interaction with the Airmen.

"The exchanges with the volunteers have been a very new and precious experience for our children," Shingaki said. "They need a place to release their energy and love to move around, so they really enjoyed playing together with their American big brothers and sisters."

Schiferl said he is happy that the Airmen were so well-received, and they would be the first in line to volunteer if they make it to Kadena again in the future.

"We're guests here, and I think it's important to reflect the best on our unit and ourselves," he said. "This is part of our mission, too."