TINIAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (NNS) -- A unified group of military volunteers boarded an Air Force C-130 based in Yokota, Japan, and flew to Tinian Feb. 22 to lend helping hands for a much needed school grounds makeover.
The volunteerism offered a break in ongoing training for the U.S. and Australian Air Force personnel currently involved in the annual exercise Cope North 2014.
Cope North involves more than 1,800 airmen and 90 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force and for the first time ever, the Korea Air Force. The focus of the exercises is to hone disaster relief and air combat training skills.
Tinian, according to Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas Regional Environmental Coordinator Mark Cruz, offers an exceptional training environment for Cope North personnel.
"Tinian has all the elements we need for intensive military training," Cruz said. "The remote location, jungle setting and support from the island's residents for these annual exercises give us the perfect location for training."
A plan for future permanent military training infrastructure is in the works at Tinian, according to Cruz, and residents like Don Farrell, an accomplished author on the history of Tinian and the significant historical significance of the island, echoed the assessment from Cruz.
"The military training and future training facilities in Tinian will be a turning point in the social development of this island by this military exposure," said Farrell, who also serves as chief of staff for the island's mayor.
Back at the school, volunteers cut thigh-high grass with weed whackers and took turns riding a John Deere lawnmower while others picked up trash around the grounds.
"It feels good to give something back to this community that has supported us so well," said Airman Amy White from the Royal Australian Air Force after her turn on the mower.
After the day's work and a hosted BBQ of chicken and ribs, the group boarded buses and were given a historic tour of the "Able runway" and the atom bomb pits where "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" were staged and loaded on the bombers Enola Gay and Bockscar, a mission that began in Tinian and devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the final stages of World War 11 in August 1945.
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