Employee still going strong after 52 years
December 15, 2011
CAMP HUMPHREYS - When he started work here, So, Song-hui figured he would stay for a few years, then move on.
But that changed and so has just about everything else during his tenure. When So began he came onto subpost K6 and worked on a manual typewriter and used carbon paper and a manual calculator. Buildings were Quonset huts, half-oval aluminum structures like those seen on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Today, subpost K6 is known as Camp Humphreys and most aspects of work are centralized and regulated by computers and automation.
So turned 18 a month prior to starting work here and is still going strong 52 years later. He had been scheduled to retire from his job as an administrative support specialist for the education center in September, but as an extension had just been granted allowing him to work past age 70, So said, "I felt guilty to not work."
Even a stroke that month failed to disuade him, a loyalty and perseverance that came as no suprise his supervisor, education services officer Beverly Suenaga.
"He comes in on weekends. He's a seven-day-a-week company guy," Suenaga said. "He has a great work ethic. He's a man of honor, commitment, integrity, and service. He's invaluable."
Early in his career, So and his co-workers moved from building to building, as the education center kept shifting, once even being housed in a building that also served as a barracks.
But they were given their own location in 1976, signalling the Army's increased awareness of the importance of educated Soldiers, an idea that has become more pronounced since then.
"In the past, the education level was low," So said. "We had mostly Soldiers with a high school education or a G.E.D. We have more with college degrees and nowadays, we are seeing more and more advanced degrees. The more skilled people you have, the better job performance and training capabilities you'll have."
So said the one constant over the years is that meeting deadlines remains the biggest challenge. But that's where teamwork comes in, he added.
"We have a good team," So said. "For a while, we didn't have enough staff, but fortunately, counselors have been added and that helps a lot, and we have good support from directorates."
So said he feels better getting up and coming to work each day and trying to make a difference.
He doesn't like one aspect of the job more than any other, except perhaps for working with people.
So originally planned to stay here for three or four years, but that stretched to a decade, at which point he thought about making it a career.
"I felt accomplishment and commitment," he said, and he's continued the same outlook for over half a century.
So said he will probably retire in 2012, at which point he plans to enjoy more free time and perhaps travel.
"I've been thinking about going to the States for many years and haven't made it," he said.
After the stroke, So's doctor advised a month's of bed rest, after which So began working 20 hours a week. Working after a stroke and 52 years on the job exemplifies his character, according to Suenaga.
"Everything is selfless," she said. "He has been my mentor and is so patient and much beloved here. When he leaves, he will be very much missed."