Camp Zama programs equip newcomers to Japan with vital information
The welcome packet that Camp Zama’s Army Community Service prepares for attendees at the newcomer’s orientation includes informational brochures, contact information, and local magazines. The newcomers’ orientation provides incoming employees with a primer on many of the installation’s key organizations and services. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 31, 2021) – Two programs that are part of the welcoming process for those newly arriving to Japan and Camp Zama help to quickly familiarize them with their new living and working environment.

“Head Start” is a weeklong class that serves as an introduction to Japanese food, culture and helpful-to-know phrases and customs. And the newcomers’ orientation provides incoming employees with a primer on many of the installation’s key organizations and services.

David Rood, an Education Services specialist at the Camp Zama Education Center, said his facility offers Head Start twice a month. During their in-processing, newcomers are scheduled to attend the program, and Rood recommends they attend within 30 days of their arrival to Japan.

The next scheduled Head Start class, which is already full, will be held Sept. 7 through 10. The class after that, which still has spaces available, will be held Sept. 20 through 24. Class sizes are currently limited to a maximum of 24 students due to COVID-19 restrictions, Rood said.

Head Start is a mandatory course required for all active-duty military members and Department of Defense employees assigned to Camp Zama, Rood said. The course provides students with some basic knowledge on the Japanese language, culture, customs and history, as well as an overview of the relationship between the United States and Japan, Rood added.

“Completion of this course will enhance your understanding of your host nation and its people,” Rood said.

The feedback his office receives from those who attend Head Start has always been “extremely positive and good-natured,” Rood said, emphasizing that students will “take out as much as they put in” to the course.

“U.S. personnel [in Japan] serve as ‘mini-ambassadors,’” Rood said. “It is important for them to represent the U.S. in a professional and positive manner.”

Lucinda Ward, the Relocation Readiness program manager at Camp Zama’s Army Community Service, said ACS hosts the newcomer’s orientation every first and third Thursday of the month. Like Head Start, the orientation is mandatory for all service members because it serves as “a foundational stepping stone for assisting new personnel with getting acclimated to their new place of duty,” Ward said.

New arrivals also schedule their orientation date during in-processing, attending only after completing the current Restriction of Movement requirements, or ROM—usually within four weeks of their arrival Ward said.

The orientation consists of briefings from 22 different agencies throughout the installation, who provide a variety of useful knowledge and information, Ward said. Additionally, a number of booths are set up that offer information on some of the programs and services, followed by a complimentary lunch and a tour of Camp Zama and the nearby Sagamihara Family Housing Area.

“I hope that the [orientation] attendees receive adequate information to help get them started in setting their roots here at Camp Zama for the next few years,” Ward said. “We receive a great deal of feedback saying that the orientation is one of the best… they have attended in their career.”

Those who have questions about Head Start can contact Rood by calling DSN: (315) 263-5055 or by e-mailing Those who have questions about Head Start can contact Ward by calling DSN: (315) 263-8091 or by e-mailing