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CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 7, 2020) – Voters named seven facilities and services on Camp Zama as being the best in Japan, four of which earned the honor for the second year in a row, in Stars and Stripes’ annual “Best of the Pacific” reader’s poll.

Competing in the “Small Base” category, Camp Zama’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; Outdoor Recreation Center; Bowling Center; and International Tours Office were the repeat winners, while the Army and Air Force Exchange Services’ Zama Express won in the Mini-Mart category; MWR’s Camp Zama Community Club won in the On-Base Club category; and MWR’s Army Lodging won in the On-Base Lodging Category.

“This is one of, if not the, best awards out there,” said Rick Bosch, FMWR director. “It is the only award [of its kind] that I am aware of that is actually purely based on the customer’s voice.”

Bosch said he and his team try to give their customers a sense of home and belonging while providing world-class customer service and opportunities to bring people together within the community.

“This community is a body, and MWR’s job is to be a heartbeat of the community,” Bosch said. “We are here for the sole purpose of supporting our military community.”

MWR’s impressive showing in the poll can be attributed to an “impressive team that is passionate about what they do,” Bosch said. His division chiefs take care of their staff, who in turn take care of their customers on a daily basis, he said.

Bosch follows a “one team, one fight” philosophy so that his staff understands that, while they operate different facilities, they are all part of a larger whole. This philosophy crosses over department boundaries, and by sharing the concept with his staff, Bosch said it especially helped his team be effective during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, MWR created what they called the Community Immunity Team, consisting of team members from across five MWR divisions. Their goal was to creatively manage the COVID crisis and focus on creating activities for the community they could do while remaining socially distant.

The team met virtually every day for more than three months and devised more than 100 programs, services, classes and community challenges. Bosch said he felt the team definitely helped the community stay active, maintain normalcy, and strengthen their resilience.

“That’s when the community needed us the most,” Bosch said. “It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my entire MWR career.”

The Camp Zama Bowling Center was one of the back-to-back winners in the “Best in the Pacific” poll. Manager Azra Pepic Flores said she and her team always try to provide a taste of home and a friendly atmosphere for the community.

Pepic Flores attributed the recognition to her staff and praised them for being friendly and always trying to provide the best service they can.

“It’s our employees who make this place an enjoyable and relaxing environment,” Pepic Flores said.

Chuck Hopkins, a regular patron at the Bowling Center who goes there three to four times weekly, said the reason he comes back is because of the great customer service, great food and the support he receives when planning events for the installation’s bowling league.

“I always feel like I’m a part of a family when I come here,” Hopkins said.

Hiroshige Huertas, a supervisory recreation specialist at the Outdoor Recreation Center said the facility gets a lot of repeat customers. Combine that with Outdoor Rec’s customer service, convenience and the variety of services they provide, and Huertas said he can understand why customers chose to recognize them two years in a row.

“My team and I always try to do everything we can to help our customers and accommodate them in the best way possible,” Huertas said, “while at the same time bridge the cultural and language gap some of our customers may experience being away from home.”

Customer Quinn Ma said he participates in Outdoor Recreation programs anywhere from one to three times per month. The reason he says he is a returning customer is because he enjoys the variety of activities Outdoor Rec provides, the reasonable price and the convenience.

“It’s no surprise they won the award back to back,” Ma said.

Adrian Santos is a fan of Outdoor Rec’s vehicle rental program, and said he is able to take trips and explore Japan once or twice a month thanks to the facility.

“They are always so easy to reach and very helpful,” said Santos.

The “Best in the Pacific” poll results were announced July 17 following a voting period that began in January, during which people in military communities in Japan, Okinawa, Guam and Korea could vote online for their favorite services and facilities, both on and off their respective installations.