FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - Imagine working in a world with no computers, no copy machines, no faxes. On December 4, 1956, this was the job Nancy Kanbara stepped into.

Fifty-two years later, after decades as executive secretary of the 516th Signal Brigade, Kanbara prepares to retire. There have been many changes to the U.S. Army Signal Corps Kanbara professes to love so much, but she has kept up with those changes just as easily as she keeps up with birthdays and reminders.

"What an honor to talk about a national treasure," said Brig. Gen. Alan Lynn, commanding general, 311th Signal Command (Theater), referring to Kanbara, known to all as 'Ms. Nancy.'

"Ms. Nancy started her federal service as a stenographer for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Office in December 1956, moved to the plans division of the U.S. Army, Hawaii in 1960, then joined the Signal Corps in 1965, so that's 45 years of service in the Signal Corps," he said. "Each day, she touched the lives of countless people, but during her career, she personally took care of 25 commanders."

Kanbara professed a preference for the Signal Corps during the luncheon.
"The Signal Corps is the best branch," Kanbara beamed to the crowd. "I am so lucky to have been a part of it all these years."

She has been the office manager, executive assistant and trusted agent to 25th Signal Corps brigade commanders, including eight general officers.

"I see you truly as one of the crown jewels of our Signal Regiment and so I thank you very much for all you've done for me, for all the other commanders, for all the nice goodies you've brought from home, and from the heart, thank you," said Bruce T. Crawford, commander, 516th Signal Brigade.

During the ceremony, Kanbara received many symbols of gratitude for her service. She was awarded the Superior Civilian Service Award, a Dept. of the Army Certificate of Achievement, Dept. of Army Certificate of Retirement, a thank you letter from U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, and was presented with a U.S. Flag flown at the United States Capitol on April 30, 2009 in honor of her 52 years of dedicated federal service.

Each department of the battalion presented Kanbara with additional gifts and Lynn presented Kanbara a coin on behalf of the 311th Signal Corps and his father, whom, he said, Nancy knew when he was in the service.

One of Kanbara's 25 former commanders, Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Rienzi (retired), spoke on her behalf.

"She is the best, greatest and finest secretary or friend that I've had of my 37 years in the Army, there she is, a wonderful and super person, she knows everything, and it's pretty tough to find someone as good at it as Nancy," stated Rienzi, who Nancy worked for during his command from 1970 to 1972. "I can assure you that there were times when it didn't look too well, but she always had all the documents to make it work."

Crawford, the current commander, spoke highly of Nancy's performance as well.

"The Ms. Nancy that I know is all that and plus some," said Crawford." She has done a tremendous job of taking care of 25 brigade commanders, and I know from personal experience that at least one of those commanders is a handful and a whole lot to try to take care of."

After 52 years of federal service, Kanbara will officially retire July 4.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16