By Mr. Richard L Rzepka (USAG Okinawa)April 15, 2015
TORII STATION, Okinawa (April 15, 2015) -- U.S. Army Garrison - Okinawa is celebrating Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 12-18, to recognize Army volunteers for their commitment and dedication to the Army Family on island - through thousands of hours of selfless service.
Soldiers, Family members and civilians, who volunteer, continue to save the Army thousands of dollars annually and contribute immeasurably to the success of the Army's mission in the Pacific, Army community service officials said.
One such volunteer, who serves both in uniform and out, has amassed nearly 70 hours of volunteer time - squeezing in volunteer hours wherever he can, between work and other commitments.
"I have 67.5 hours total … eight hours for the [Martin Luther King] run that was in January, five hours for the Ishimire Sports Day and 54.5 hours at USO Kadena," said Spc. Daniel Elisalda, 53rd Signal Battalion, 1st Space Brigade. "I will be volunteering at the upcoming Torii Beach Clean Up Day and also looking into volunteering to be a English teacher for first grade at a local Japanese school."
Elisalda, who joined the Army in May 2013 as a satellite controller, began volunteering at his church before raising his right hand. After completing basic training and advanced training, he found himself on Okinawa, which did not disappoint him as a first duty station.
"I love it here … the island, the people … just the atmosphere," he said. "I think it's due to being away from home, you have to rely on people you work with, so it's kind of more like a Family than co-workers, per se."
His boss and fellow Soldiers recognized the value and satisfaction that Elisalda was getting out of his volunteer efforts and started to seek ways in which they could give something back to the community here.
"Spc. Elisalda has inspired other Soldiers not only to volunteer their time, efforts and talents but to get credit for it in [Volunteer Management Information System] as well. I have no doubt that Spc. Elisalda will be the first of many to be recommended for the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal," said 1st Sgt. Jay High. "I think it is a great opportunity for our junior Soldiers to get integrated into the community in a healthy manner, as well as our single Soldiers an opportunity to interact with others similar interests."
The Army Volunteer Corps program embraces existing volunteer programs, uniting volunteers, who support Soldiers and Families, including the active and formalizes the Army's commitment to volunteerism, Army Community Service officials said.
"Volunteers contribute a wide-range of services that enhance and expand the capabilities of Army programs and services," said Dereck Spivey, community life officer and Army Volunteer Corps coordinator. "Working as one team, paid and volunteer staff provide real-life, fungible solutions for successful military living. Volunteering allows you to explore new career fields or [to] update your existing skills and accumulate work experience, while it's also a great opportunity to meet and socialize with others who are active participants in the community."
Spivey said volunteering is as simple as completing the Volunteer Agreement Form DD 2793 and submitting it to the U.S. Army Garrison - Okinawa Volunteer Corps Coordinator's office, which enables you to receive certain protections and benefits equivalent to that of a federal employee. All of this is available at the Army One Source website by registering and then locating Torii Station through the Volunteer Tools portal, he said.
"For me personally, you get to have new experiences and meet new people," Elisalda said. "It's also about self growth for me - learning who you really are. I just like volunteering and I like helping out people in any way, shape or form."