KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- His career has been more than 20 years in the making. What started out as a humble beginning has now turned into something more influential.
Kenichi Shimajiri, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector, rose in the ranks from the role of a firefighter to 18th CES fire inspector.
The job of a fire inspector is to ensure buildings are free of any potential fire hazards and are safe for the people occupying them.
Shimajiri had been a firefighter for 23 years; all of his tenure at Kadena. As Shimajiri grew older, his desire to learn more about his career led him to his current position.
“It sounded like a job for a good man, which is what I wanted when I was younger,” said Shimajiri.
Since 2013, Shimajiri has been a fire inspector and is still helping people.
“As a fire inspector, it’s a totally different feel,” said Shimajiri. “Now, we can prevent fires from happening and try to make it a better, safer area for Kadena as a whole.”
Removing the fire hazards involves many inspections and constant interaction with Kadena’s military members.
“During inspections, we work with the facility manager or anyone involved with the inspection,” said Shimajiri. “We try to get on the same page with both sides.”
Shimajiri has relationships with facility managers and his fellow co-workers in the fire department. Since he’s on the fire prevention side, he interacts often with those on the operations side (firefighters) daily.
“He’s the continuity for us,” said Mike Toyama, 18th CES fire chief assistant. “He’s been working here longer than all these Airmen. People come and they’re new; he’s the go-to guy for asking questions, and he always has the answer for them.”
Toyama has known Shimajiri for 25 years. All of the experience they have gained at Kadena makes them the source of continuity for their fellow fire department personnel.
Shimajiri shows fellow firefighters where to enter certain buildings in the event of a fire and the different strategies they can use.
“They come and ask me questions because I have so much experience,” said Shimajiri. “Everything I know, I teach to them. It’s why I stay here. I have continuity and I can teach them what they need to know, making Kadena safer.”
It’s with this goal of keeping Kadena safe Shimajiri finds fulfillment in his work.
“Every day, I enjoy my job,” said Shimajiri. “It’s very important, not just for the fire department, but for everybody on Kadena. It’s important to maintain safe operations and safe working areas.”