DVIDS – News – Japan’s Engineering District Celebrates 50 Years of Service

CAMP ZAMA, JAPAN – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Japan Engineer District celebrated 50 years of service with a big celebration at Camp Zama’s Community Club, June 13.

The event not only brought together members of Japan’s Engineering District, but also welcomed distinguished visitors; Maj. Gen. Joel Vowell, commanding general of U.S. Army Japan, Brig. Gen. Kirk Gibbs, commanding general, Pacific Ocean Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Damon Lily, director of programs, Pacific Ocean Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Command Sgt. Major Jerry Dodson, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Japan, Mr. Shinichiro Miyakawa, Director of Procurement, South Kanto Defense Bureau, Colonel Christopher Tomlinson, Commander U.S. Army Japan Garrison, Colonel Kenji Honda, Commander, 4th Engineer Group, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, Col. Yoshiyuki Hirano, Commander, Zama General Support Unit, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and Lt. Col. Oliver Barfield, Acting J9, US Forces Japan .

The festivities began with a performance by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s 31st Infantry Drum Team Takayama Taiko, who gave three performances on traditional Japanese percussion instruments to celebrate the district’s half-century of service. of Japanese genius in Japan.

Guest speaker Brig. General Kirk Gibbs noted that this trip to Japan would mark the very first time he was able to see the country up close, as on previous visits COVID restrictions had limited his activity to the base only.

During his address, the General presented the crowd with the timeline of JED’s 50 years of growth and prosperity, growing from a single office on the island of Okinawa to 12 different offices across Japan from 2022. “On May 15, 1972…in Okinawa, the island returned to Japanese hands,” he said, referring to the famous post-war turnover that saw the island territory pass from American control to the Japanese.” And here at Camp Zama [on that same day]the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] The Japan regional office is reborn as the Japan Engineer District. A district to oversee military and host nation construction not only in Okinawa, but throughout Japan.

Gibbs also spoke at length about JED’s triumphant Iwakuni Airstrip Relocation Project, describing how an entire mountain was moved out to sea to create land, housing two new airstrips for Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, located in the southern Japan.

“Yet more impressive than moving mountains, it was the hands that made it possible. The strength and success of the Japan Engineer District lies in its employees. No single person can move a mountain, but as a group…if everyone does it, little by little, mountains can be moved,” he said, waving at the crowd. “You are all proof of that.”

Col. Gary Bonham expressed to those gathered how honored the District was that Brig. General Kirk Gibbs would choose to fly all the way to Japan, jumping through the many hoops COVID had caused for international travel, just to witness the event of the day.

“General Gibbs…your words remind all of us in the Japan Engineer District of our wonderful heritage in Japan as the premier DoD construction officer in all of Asia,” the 41st JED Commander said. “It’s easy for us to look to the Japan Engineer District’s long streak of innovation and success as a reason to say we’re great. And we are… we are really special. But while we’re prouder of our projects than many of you will ever know… they’re not the reason we’re great.

“The truth is that none of these projects…not the new schools…not the new runways…not the new campuses…storage facilities…you name it… [would ever] exist without the people who make up the Japan Engineer District,” Colonel Bonham continued. “They are the reason for the district’s rich heritage of innovation in building facilities for US forces in Japan.”

In addition to the taiko drum performance, the event also featured a specially handcrafted Japanese daruma doll which, in Japanese tradition, has no eyes. According to legend, one eye is painted when a wish is made, the other when that wish comes true. Shelly Spayde, Assistant District Engineer for Program and Project Management, Japan District, painted a solitary dot for the doll’s left eye.
“Today, I fill the first eye with the wish for prosperity and good fortune not only for the engineering district of Japan, but also for America. [and] Japanese alliance. I hope that in 50 years the other eye will be filled in as proof of how strong our friendship is,” she said.

Afterwards, various items, including a helmet, a commander’s coin, and the original orders establishing the Japanese Engineer District, were placed in a time capsule to be sealed and reopened in 2072 for the district’s 100th anniversary jubilee.

In true Army tradition, a cake cutting was also held to commemorate the event. This cupcake, however, was special. JED is made up of offices spread across Japan, most of which were too far away to travel to the celebration. On a large screen above the stage, live video feeds from each office were played, remotely introducing each office to the proceedings, remotely. Scenes from Misawa in northern Japan to Yokosuka near the center of the island nation to Okinawa far in the tropical south appeared on screen – each location with its own cake.

Commander JED Bonham led a cake-cutting charge with the wish for another 50 years of prosperity. On the count of three, knives fell in every office of the US Army Corps of Engineers across the country, separated physically by distance but unified in this moment by the spirit of pride and celebration.

The event was capped off with a traditional cracking of Japanese sake casks by Colonel Bonham and the Colonels of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. Honda and Hirano. After the sake vat was opened, a toast was raised by Mr. Shigeru Endo, a long-serving JED senior project manager who had recently retired but returned for the event.

“Here are 50 years of great work,” he said. “And another 50 more to come!”

Date taken: 13.06.2022
Date posted: 21.06.2022 22:47
Story ID: 423480
Location: KANAGAWA, JP

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