In an April 30, 2021 proclamation, President Joe Biden recognized the history and achievements of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who “enrich America’s culture and society,” through “diversity of cultures, languages, and religions.”
Each May, during the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance, the Department of Defense pays tribute to the generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who contributed to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States and who continue to be pivotal to America’s future success. The theme for the 2021 DoD observance, which was chosen by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.”
From its headquarters at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, the team of purpose-driven service professionals at U.S. Army Installation Management Command-Pacific manage facilities and deliver programs and services to Army installations across the Pacific region from Alaska to the Marshall Islands and from Hawaii to East Asia.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Hawaii is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse states in America, with Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders making up nearly half of the state’s population.
“We simply couldn’t carry out our important mission without the expertise and professionalism of the many outstanding Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on our team. I join the Army in saluting their contributions as we cultivate an Army culture that infuses diversity across our leadership, provides promotion opportunities, and maximizes the talents of everyone at every level,” said IMCOM-Pacific Director, Craig Deatrick.
IMCOM-Pacific’s workforce highlights Hawaii’s diversity, with Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders serving key roles at the headquarters and at the U.S. Army Garrisons it manages.
As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021 was drawing to a close, members of the IMCOM-Pacific team reflected on what the observance meant to them.
George Chun, a member of the IMCOM-Pacific senior staff, is the Equal Employment Opportunity manager overseeing EEO programs throughout the Pacific. Chun provides guidance and assistance on EEO matters to IMCOM-Pacific organizations across the region.
“It has been my experience that being culturally different does not mean we do not understand. It means we have a different perspective. We all share the same stories, which makes us a diverse family and yet provides one of the greatest sources of synergy to overcome any challenge that we might face, both personally and professionally,” said Chun.
Before coming to IMCOM-Pacific, Chun served as the EEO Manager, Complaints Manager and EEO Specialist at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii and was an investigator at Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Honolulu local office.
Michael Harada, chief of the Engineering and Plans Branch of the Public Works Division at IMCOM-Pacific, started his 40-year civil service career in Hawaii at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay in 1981 and moved into Army public works at Schofield Barracks a few years later. He spent several years serving customers at Schofield Barracks before taking a job at U.S. Army Pacific.
In the early 2000s, Harada was transferred from USARPAC into the Installation Management Agency's Pacific Region Office, which is now IMCOM-Pacific. He has been with IMCOM-Pacific ever since. Throughout his career, wherever he served, Harada’s personal goal – and clear evidence of his purpose-driven service – was to care for service members and their families.
“My philosophy has been, we need to show them that even though we are their only service, we are the best service that they could get … I always strived to ensure whatever products or programs I worked provided the best we could for our service members.”
When asked about his thoughts on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Harada said, “Having grown up in Hawaii, I did not realize I was a man of color until I was in my forties or fifties, when I was asked to speak at an event honoring minorities.”
Harada explained that ideas around diversity when he was growing up in Hawaii are a little bit different than they are in the mainland.
“I think, having grown up in Hawaii, racial barriers were fairly minimal. Everybody was a minority, if you think about it. There was no distinct majority. In Hawaii, we just take it for granted that we are who we are. Asian Americans are considered one group, but in Hawaii we have specific categories because of our cultural backgrounds,” Harada added.
Harada summed-up IMCOM-Pacific’s mission with a clear statement, “If we are the only choice for our service members, we’d better make darn sure that we are the best choice. I believe that’s what we are here for.”
When asked what Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month meant to her, Kimberly Straube, Chief of IMCOM-Pacific’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation said, “AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to highlight the contributions of the AAPI community and remember the stories of those who came before us. The fact that I have the opportunity to serve as a leader in the same organization that established the highly recognized 442nd Regimental Combat Team is an evolution that is not lost on me. The difficult work to overcome adversity requires a concerted effort between those who are willing to endure it and those in the position to enable it. Each generation has the ability to make things better for the next. I feel fortunate to work with team members and leaders who appreciate the diverse cultures and ethnicities in Hawai’i.”
Straube grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii and has served within IMCOM, from the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii to IMCOM-Pacific, since 2007. She took the lead at IMCOM-Pacific’s DFMWR in 2020.
A brief history of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month:
In 1978, Congress established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. The first ten days of May were chosen to coincide with two important milestones in history: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843 and the contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, which was completed May 10, 1869. In one of the greatest engineering feats in American history, twelve thousand Chinese immigrants constructed the western section of the transcontinental railroad from 1865 to 1869. In 1992, Congress expanded the observance to a month-long celebration. In 2009, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was changed to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.