By Sgt. 1st Class Ershwyn ThibouJanuary 17, 2019
After 41 years of service to the Nation, Senior Executive Service member Eugene Ban, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (USACE) Pacific Ocean Division (POD) retired on Jan. 15, 2019.
In a ceremony held in Ban's honor, Brig. Gen Thomas Tickner, POD commander, expressed his gratitude saying "Gene... Thank you. Because of your contributions, the POD enjoys the level of strategic and critical alliances that we have today. Your work throughout the pacific, supporting U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, military and civil works missions, host nation construction programs and continuous support of Indo-Pacific Command's (INDOPACOM) theater security cooperation plan, has strengthened our efforts in every way, making the POD the strategic engineer of choice."
As part of the POD team, Ban has worked for ten Chiefs of Engineers and seven division commanders who he says helped to shape his career in meaningful ways. He has spearheaded many significant ventures during his time with the Corps. His major accomplishments include helping to plan, and direct or play a role in some of the largest engineering projects undertaken by the Department of Defense in the Pacific since the end of the cold war: the Humphries Korea relocation program, the Iwakuni Program, and the Futenma Replacement Program for example. He was also inducted into the National Academy of Construction, a very exclusive organization.
Ban expressed his confidence that those coming after him possess the competence to get the job done, and will receive the same support, guidance and mentoring from leadership that he has gotten over the years in order to do the job.
Ban grew up in Honoka'a on the Big Island, and has fond memories of his time as part of the close-knit plantation community, playing football as a half back at the local high school. After graduating, he attended the University of Hawaii, but didn't know which career or academic path he wanted to pursue. However, Ban but knew that whatever path he followed, he wanted it to lead back to his beloved Hawaii. Ban's desire was to serve and make Hawaii a better place. He knew that he wanted to enter into a discipline that would challenge him mentally and intellectually, choosing civil engineering and joined the ROTC program. This penchant for seeking out challenges is something that he would carry with him throughout his long career.
After graduating University, he joined the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant, served in some key positions, and had the chance to make an impact. Despite having a promising career in the Air Force, he left the Service as a captain because he wanted a career that was centered in Hawaii where he felt he could make a difference.
One of the things that Ban always attempted to do wherever he worked, was to promote, or create a win-win situation for all the players involved in any endeavor. He said "I learned from early on in my career that because everyone works for the same team, it is always better to work together in a cooperative effort, though at times we may seem to have competing interests." Ban reiterated that "we should always pursue the win-win situation."
His recipe for success was to simply continue challenging himself with the toughest assignments, and do the best in everything that he did, with the goal of always producing the top results. This is the advice that he also gives to anyone hoping to be successful in their chosen field of endeavor.
After working in Federal Service for about four years, and getting what he described as "itchy feet," he transitioned to the private sector where he enjoyed success as the Vice President, and President of two companies successively. After about ten years in the private sector he said "I missed taking on projects that make a difference to DoD and our nation."
Ban returned to the federal service for the DoD to undertake a major engineering project in Japan the project was eventually scrapped. He was not fearful of this challenge, meeting it head on, which led to other opportunities. He was quickly offered a different position at a higher grade with the Pacific Ocean Division, Japan Engineer District.
He describes his time in Japan as a very rewarding experience, and holds on to a special Japanese saying "ichigo-ichie." He is pensive as he translate, "This is a very special moment in time with very close friends and you should cherish it for a life time because you may not get it again."
His work accomplishments are not what Ban is most proud of during his time with the POD. His proudest and fondest memories are of the people. He says considerately, and with sincerity that "it is always about the people. It is the people who are the strength of our organization." Ban also added that he feels blessed to have served with some of the best people that anyone can hope to have as part of one's team.
In looking back on his journey, and what yet lies ahead; he says that he feels good. He muses happily about his career, describing it as more fun than work to him. Ban says "I reflect on my career with great joy and fulfillment." Recalling his humble beginning, he says "I cannot believe that a small town boy like me has gotten to do as much as I have done with my life."
Entering this new phase of his life, he plans to spend time with his wife Sandra, who he says is a major inspiration to him. "I call her the ambassador of the family because of how good she is with people, and because of her beautiful heart," Ban adds. As for the future, he foresees playing a lot of golf, enjoying Hawaii, and reminiscing and catching up with his old high school buddies from his home town of Honoka'a. As his journey comes full circle, and he makes his return to his hometown on vacation; he is taking with him the fond memories of his time with the Corps, the friendships he has made, and the way that his life has been enriched by the whole experience.