Kadena Fire and Emergency Services wins three Air Force-level awards

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Yutaka Higa, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, poses for a photo in front of a fire truck on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 2, 2015. Higa, who has been working at the fire department for more than 24 years, recently won the 2014 Air Force Firefighter of the Year Award, civilian category, for his day-to-day accomplishments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Naoto Anazawa)
Yutaka Higa, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, poses for a photo in front of a fire truck on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 2, 2015. Higa, who has been working at the fire department for more than 24 years, recently won the 2014 Air Force Firefighter of the Year Award, civilian category, for his day-to-day accomplishments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Naoto Anazawa)

Kadena Fire and Emergency Services wins three Air Force-level awards

by: Tech. Sgt. Alexy Saltekoff | .
18th Wing Public Affairs | .
published: April 19, 2015

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Kadena's fire department and two of its civilian firefighters were selected recently to represent the Air Force in the upcoming Department of Defense Fire & Emergency Services Annual Awards.

The 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergency Services flight won the Air Force Fire Department of the Year award, large category, which is awarded to the most outstanding large fire department for achieving the highest degree of excellence in mission support and fire protection management.

As the best large fire department in the Air Force, Kadena Fire and Emergency Services protects the largest combat wing in Pacific Air Forces Command covering more than 80 aircraft, 7,000 buildings, 24,000 personnel, 8,000 housing units and 11,000 acres.

"Kadena FES is unlike any other fire department in the Air Force," said Master Sgt. Aaron Duggins, Kadena FES assistant chief for fire prevention. "With an average of 1,400 annual emergency responses and protecting the largest combat wing the Air Force has to offer, our firefighters are constantly reminded how truly important our job at Kadena Air Base is."

Among their many accomplishments in 2014, they saved the lives of a mother and her prematurely born baby, rescued a local farmer trapped under faming equipment, and revived a car accident victim. They led fire drills for Kadena's schools and daycare facilities, raised money for the Kadena Special Olympics and led bilateral training with host nation partners. They also made international news by cutting through the roof of a concrete 18th Security Forces Squadron guard shack to rescue two trapped Airmen during a flash flood on July 9, 2014, after Typhoon Neoguri.

"Our department accepts these awards with great humility," said Duggins. "To be recognized as the 2014 USAF Fire Emergency Services Flight of the Year is great, but to be recognized as the Large FES Flight is an extraordinary accomplishment and speaks to the dedication and professionalism of our firefighters."

Two of the firefighters involved in the success of the Kadena fire department also won Air Force level awards; Yuji Nakayama, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron district chief, won the Air Force Civilian Fire Officer of the Year award, and Yutaka Higa, 18th CES firefighter, won the Air Force Civilian Firefighter of the Year award. Both awards are given to recognize superior job performance and outstanding contributions to a DoD fire and emergency services organization

"I was very surprised because I was focused on doing the day-to-day work," said Nakayama. "I am very grateful to everyone who supported me. It takes everyone's cooperation. I couldn't have achieved this award without co-workers support."

Higa echoed the belief in and influence of strong teamwork.

"I think I won this award because I was blessed with good colleagues and supervisors," Higa said. "I will increase the enthusiasm to work by becoming a good example for the young people."

The annual DoD Fire and Emergency Services Awards Program recognizes the accomplishments and honors of DoD fire departments, fire officers and firefighters.