CAMP ZAMA, JAPAN - U.S. Army Garrison Japan officials are once again providing local teens with the chance for a traditional American rite of passage: a summer job.

The Summer Hire Program places teen family members in various organizations for 20 hours a week for two months during summer vacation.

"We wanted to provide them the experience of working like they would get in the States," said Mark Ackerson, director of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center for U.S. Army Garrison Japan. "We're trying to provide that experience in our small community."

Jennifer Ledbetter, a human resources specialist who coordinates the program, said that while funding fluctuates yearly, they were able to place about a dozen teens in jobs this year.

She called the program a win-win for both the teens and the work centers where they are employed, including the child development and teen centers, the Army Community Service center and the Japan District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

Since many military families are in the midst of their permanent-change-of-station moves, the summer hires help bolster depleted staffing, Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter also said that the process they used mirrors the government's system to hire its permanent civilians, meaning it was a great professional training opportunity. She said that this year the teens were required to submit resumes through the USAJobs website.

To help facilitate the new process, CPAC staff members held a training class at the teen center and taught the applicants how to create accounts, build resumes, and submit them electronically.

Col. Grant S. Sullivan, who serves as the U.S. Army Japan G1, administered the new hires the oath of office for civil service employees before they went to work.

"It is so important to have an active role in the development of our youth here on Camp Zama," Sullivan said. "Spending time with them in a professional setting or on the athletic field has a direct impact."

He also said he sees value in the program for all involved.

"This program is a great opportunity for our students to work in a professional setting, gain exposure to the active Army and Civilian workforce on Camp Zama and to earn a few bucks," he said. "It is also an opportunity for our soldiers and civilians to mentor these kids and shape their futures. Advice and life perspectives from outside their homes goes a long way."


Stanley Austin, the Family Advocacy Program Manager at Camp Zama, currently supervises some of the teens. He said he has a personal connection to the program because his own daughters had previously participated.

"They received an appreciation for working with the soldiers, the families, and the civilians," he said of the experience.

Austin said he's watched teens working for him take advantage of the program to start saving money for college. He also stressed that they are providing an extra set of hands during a time when staffing can be difficult."

"They are participating professionally, working the phones, manning the front desk," he said.

One of the summer hires working for Austin is high-school student Riki Fameli, a family member of a garrison employee.

Fameli is no stranger to the program. This is third year, and his third different work location.

He said he's learned a lot about what it's like to actually go to work, and knows what will be expected of him in the future.

"You pick up on a lot of workplace things, like how people interact with each other, going to meetings," and receiving mentorship, Fameli explained.

And since he's considering studying public health in college, he said getting to see that career field first-hand in his various jobs was extremely valuable.

"For me, at least, it's not about making money," he said. "It's like an internship, getting to see the professional workplace."