By Kristina Mullis
ZUSHI CITY, Japan – Whether about transportation, childcare options or community activities, Ikego residents’ concerns are being heard.
Representatives from MWR Yokosuka, the Ikego Housing Office, the Navy Exchange, Fleet and Family Support Services, Yokosuka Child and Youth Education Services, and more, as well as Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka Ikego Detachment leadership and Ikego residents, joined together to brainstorm solutions to resident concerns at a focus group July 19. The focus group was a follow-up response from the Ikego Town Hall meeting June 13 and provided a more in-depth conversation about resident issues.
“I feel like we’re pushed to live out here, but we have nothing,” Ikego resident Ai Marrero said. “We’re spending more money living here than people living in Yokosuka.”
This sentiment was echoed by a number of residents, citing concerns including activities for teens, higher costs for items at the NEX mini mart, hourly childcare options and transportation to and from Yokosuka.
Master Chief Master-at-Arms David Aguilera, FLEACT Yokosuka’s Ikego Detachment command liaison, said new initiatives are moving forward to address some of the concerns.
“Ikego residents voiced concerns about additional transportation being provided to Yokosuka base,” Master Chief Aguilera said. “In response to the community, CFAY leadership moved forward to expand the home-to-work bus schedule from Ikego to Yokosuka.”
The expanded route includes a pick-up time in Ikego starting at 8 a.m. and pick-up in Yokosuka beginning at 3 p.m. The home-to-work bus routes are primarily for active duty and civilian Department of Defense personnel, but dependents are able to ride on a space-available basis. The additional route will run on a trial basis for the next two months, gathering data on usage. After the two month trial run, CFAY leadership will be briefed, and a decision to continue the route will be made.
Ikego resident Spencer Weise said she thinks the route is a great addition for Ikego families.
“The additional bus route is fantastic,” Weise said. “It’s just more convenient, especially for those who might have appointments on main base. And in this heat or when it rains, it’s a good alternative to taking the train.”
Ikego resident Terri Leasor said she, like many others, usually begins work earlier in the day, but that she sees the benefits for those with multiple children, medical appointments and the teens on Ikego who could use the transportation to the teen center on main base or other activities. She said her main concern is participation from residents.
“As a whole, it’s a good addition,” Leasor said. “We will just have to see if people in the community continue to use this opportunity.”
In addition to the expanded bus route, Ikego residents suggested opening the playground at Ikego Elementary School as an option for increasing the number of activities available for children and teens on Ikego. The playground has remained closed during the summer and after school hours because of its secluded location and lack of supervision during non-school hours.
To combat the issue of supervision, Ikego leadership has begun a sign up for volunteer playground monitors. Residents and commands are encouraged to call the Ikego Command Liaison Office at 246-8042 and sign up as monitors, and details on hours available to open the playground will be discussed. Master Chief Aguilera said the intent is to open the playground as soon as there are enough volunteers to ensure the safety of the residents.
Other issues, such as hourly childcare options, completion of the teen center and additional community activities in Ikego, will need more long-term solutions. Representatives from Yokosuka Child and Youth Education Services and MWR both cited a shortage of staff, which has impacted their respective programs. However, MWR Athletics Director John Benningfield said there are plans to expand group exercise classes and the number of fun runs and other fitness activities in Ikego, and MWR Community Activities plans to offer more concerts, movie nights and other special events beginning later this year.
All representatives said they are dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living in Ikego, and they are willing to discuss any more opportunities, ideas and suggestions to make Ikego feel more like home.
“There’s more I can do, and we can do better,” School Liaison Officer Chris Dickson said. “We’re listening. We can’t completely replicate life in the States, but we can try.”
FLEACT Yokosuka provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of 7th Fleet’s Forward-Deployed Naval Forces, 83 tenant commands and 24,000 Military and civilian personnel.