Worker retires after 47 years of service to CLR-35
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines with Ordnance Maintenance Company, 3rd Maintenance Battalion, held a retirement ceremony for Masahi Igei, a Master Labor Contract employee Feb. 19 at The Palms on Camp Hansen. Igei served alongside the Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 35 for 47 years.
Igei started his career with the U.S. military in 1964 as a mess hall worker, and began working with Ordnance Maintenance Company in 1966. He worked as a general weapons repair technician at the armory and held the title of head MLC for the past 13 years. He officially retired Dec. 31, 2013.
“I’m going to miss his presence in the shop,” said Sgt. Stephen M. Wells IV, a small- arms technician with the company, 3rd Maint. Bn., CLR-35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “He’s a very hard worker, always the first one to do whatever needs to be done. He is also a huge role model for the other MLC (employees) and Marines in the shop as well. They always go to him for advice, and he would give whatever he needed to give (to help).”
Over the years, Igei had the opportunity to work with and witness the evolution of numerous weapons systems, ranging from the M14A1 squad automatic rifle during the Vietnam War to the M16A4 service rifle in use today.
“The M14’s that came in for maintenance became so numerous that the rifles could not all be held within the armory, the rifles had to be stacked outside the armory,” said Igei. “The bluing of the weapons had come off so completely that they needed to be completely broken down and sent to Camp Kinser to be re-blued. After re-bluing each individual part, the armory needed to reassemble those weapons and perform a five-shot test fire. I would pack these repaired rifles in a box and send them to Vietnam.”
Bluing refers to the conversion coating to keep the weapon from rusting and becoming unserviceable.
Igei was often seen as a mentor and teacher among the service members and MLC employees in his section, according to Paul G. Palmeri, the family readiness officer for 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd MLG, III MEF. They would come to him when they needed help troubleshooting weapons or desired to learn about a system they were unfamiliar with.
“He has taught me a lot about weapons systems,” said Palmeri, who had worked alongside Igei as a Marine armorer from November 2004 to September 2011. “When you go through armory school, you learn how to take apart and put together every weapon system that they currently have in inventory. (Igei) educated the Marines and MLC (employees) on the weapons systems and what they can expect, common issues and showing them how to do repairs.”
Being dependable and having a committed work ethic were key traits Igei held, according to Wells. Igei sense of humor always helped to make complicated tasks easily understood.
“His presence impacted me in the shop because sometimes our job is pretty high-strung,” said Wells. “Being near him, joking around, always smiling, and interacting with the Marines made tasks easier to handle. I learned to not always be so straightforward, but to ease the conversation along, to have a lot more tact. It doesn’t always have to be so black and white; he puts a little color into it.”
Aside from working with weapons as a day job, Igei maintained a mango and sugar cane farm, where he hosted Marines on numerous occasions.
“He’s a mango farmer, and he harvests sugar cane,” said Palmeri. “Marines would sometimes go help him out, get exposure to the culture and enjoy spending time with him. It was a great pleasure working with him.”
With a curiosity for weapons as a young boy, the opportunity to pursue that interest has made for a fulfilling and grateful life, according to Igei.
“I’ve worked here half of my life and have really enjoyed it,” said Igei. “That’s the biggest thing to me, enjoying the job. (Now that I’m retired), I will go home to my land, work on my farm and harvest (my crops).”