By Richard L. McKibbenOctober 25, 2019
Hiromitsu Arakaki received a 30 year Length of Service Award during the Master Labor Contract Award Ceremony in Okinawa on October 16.
Arakaki began his lengthy career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Japan Engineer District in 1988, after transferring from the 18th Civil Engineering Group to the Tengan Resident Office on Kadena Air Base.
Reporting for duty at TRO for the first time was a stressful experience, and Arakaki mistakenly asked to see the wrong individual when checking in. The TRO Resident Engineer at the time, Mr. Yoshimoto responded "What? You don't know the name of your boss!"
Being the youngest member of his team at TRO created additional challenges. Most of his coworkers were not familiar with a new technology introduced in the office, computers.
At that time, telephone lines were shared by modems and voice communication. Transferring project information via modem during the day would frequently be interrupted by high priority calls initiated at the switch. Consequently, Arakaki would be the one to update the host nation database early in the morning or late in the evening. He also remembers the tedious task of completing the daily quality assurance reports by hand.
Those times were not without some humorous moments. Arakaki recalls an incident with a colleague. Mr. Yamada. Yamada was curious about the differences in the food at the different dining facilities at Kadena Air Base. Yamada was able to sneak into the U.S. chow hall and grab a plate of food before being grabbed by the collar.
"With fork still in hand, he continued to eat while being dragged out of the facility," laughed Arakaki.
In 1996, because of the declining workload, many of the Okinawa Area Office employees relocated to the mainland to support projects there. Arakaki was sent to help with the Ikego Housing Project in Yokosuka.
"I enjoyed working at Yokosuka," said Arakaki. "Especially working with a humble young captain. That captain would later be known as Maj. Gen. Michael C. Wehr (former USACE Deputy Commanding General)."
Eventually, Arakaki joined the Engineering Division to support communications design.
"Mr. Asato and I were the team," said Arakaki. "The work was surprisingly busy, and I worked from early in the morning to late in the evening."
Their office was located next to the U.S. Consulate General Naha in Urasoe City and was later demolished to become a shopping mall. The USACE office was later relocated to its current location at Camp Foster.
Through the years, Arakaki became very familiar with U.S. construction standards and requirements especially for communications and hospital facilities.
"There were no (Army Civilians) working in the OAO communications section, so I had to work on both military construction and Host Nation projects," Arakaki explained.
Arakaki has received numerous awards and recognition during his time with the Corps. The most memorable for Arakaki was receiving the Chief of Engineers coin from Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick at Kadena Air Base.
As a valued member of the Okinawa Design Branch, Arakaki continues to contribute his communications engineering knowledge and expertise, along with team members Tsukasa Oshiro and Yukiya Uezato.
"I am very thankful for the mentors, colleagues, and many training opportunities I had while working at JED," said Arakaki.