NAHA MILITARY PORT, Okinawa—During the current crisis, when people talk about the heroes on the front line, usually they mean the Soldiers, doctors, nurses, police and others fighting the battle against the virus. But there are other heroes, working quietly behind the scenes, providing the services and infrastructure those front-line fighters need to operate.
One of those unsung heroes is Yutaka “Tak” Kakazu, an information technology specialist at the 835th Transportation Battalion, one of three battalions forward deployed to the Pacific by the 599th Transportation Brigade.
He started working for the U.S. Army in 1993, right here, for the then 1315th Medium Port Command, which became the 835th Transportation Battalion. He wasn’t always an IT specialist either.
“I was initially in Cargo Documentation Division,” Kakazu said. “At first, I thought I would transfer to another ‘bigger’ base. I guess Naha Port has been a home to me as I have never left it.”
Working as an IT specialist requires him to interact with virtually everyone in the command.
“Working for 835th battalion and especially as an IT specialist, it’s great as I touch base with everyone,” he said. “Everyone is considered my customers and to fix something that they require is rewarding.”
“When something needs explaining, he is looked to as the master labor contractor to go to,” said the battalion’s information management officer, John Balfour. “His experience and total grasp of the IT competencies—attention to details, customer service, oral communications and problem solving—is above excellent. He has a total knowledge of all our employees, their needs and IT equipment, which makes him a valuable member of the 835th Transportation Battalion.”
His long experience and expertise were tested by the problems associated with the COVID-19 response.
“Tak brings an extremely high level of technical expertise, coupled with the ability to articulate complex requirements to our master labor contractors, Army civilians, and military service members at all levels,” said the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Kelvin Simmons. “Tak has done a superb job keeping the battalion connected across the Indo-Pacific area of operations in the COVID-19 environment. He’s a team player that ensures all port operations are successfully completed.”
“Being an ‘old-timer’ at the port I try to be somewhat of a representative for the unit,” Kakazu said. “I try to explain to the local national population, who do not always understand, new policies and rules that may change and why.
“Telework started for the battalion the week of March 23,” he continued. “I was able to get the last person configured for telework by end of March. I have seen better times, and not so good times, but overall I would say it's quite rewarding to work here. Especially retrieving or recovering possible lost data for the user. Their appreciation is the best reward.”
Kakazu also routinely ensures that computers, telephones, servers, handheld scanners, printers, office equipment and deployable equipment are ready to meet the mission needs. Sounds simple, but rest assured, it is not.
“The difficult thing is that trying to find out what the problem is with a system,” said Kakazu. “The problem, outcome or the result may seem similar but the corrective actions are always different and there is always a time limit to get things done.”
In the end it all comes back to working in the right place with the right people.
“The personnel here, local nationals, DA civilians, active military, they all seem to all work like family,” Kakazu said. “Bottom line, Naha Military Port is a great place to work because of the people who work here.”
Kakazu remains an extremely important asset to the unit and its mission, even in the middle of a crisis. His expertise contributes to the battalion’s ability to continually provide surface distribution and military water terminal services for cargo transiting the common-user water terminals on Okinawa and conduct surface deployment, distribution, and water terminal operations to directly support, sustain and redeploy the warfighter within the Pacific Command area of operations, or worldwide.