Three years ago, Robert Eldridge gave up his associate professorship at Osaka University to work on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa. He said he thought he could make bigger contributions to U.S.-Japan relations in the prefecture than by teaching about the U.S.-Japan alliance to students at the school.

In his new post of deputy assistant chief of staff of government and external affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Butler, one of his missions was to achieve heightened transparency within the corps in order for the local population to gain a greater understanding of its role.

His efforts culminated with Operation Tomodachi in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year, and he initiated a host family program in which children from Oshima, near tsunami-hit Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, were invited to spend four days with U.S. Marine Corps families.