USO Okinawa honors 7 at annual gala

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USO Okinawa honors 7 at annual gala

by: Stripes Okinawa | .
published: May 15, 2017

The USO Okinawa will host the 46th Annual Service Salute Gala at the Butler Officers’ Club on May 20. The black-tie event will feature a performance by Poemarama, a Kagami Biraki ceremony, dinner and dancing. The USO will also be honoring seven servicemembers of the U.S. Armed Forces and Japan Self-Defense Forces for their outstanding professionalism, leadership, service to country and embodiment of the USO’s eight core values. The following are this years’ honorees:

Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Harris

18th Civil Engineer Squadron
Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Harris is a Fire Inspector for Kadena Fire Emergency Services (KFES), 18th Civil Engineer Squadron, Kadena Air Base. Harris enlisted in 2007 and has been assigned to three duty locations in three MAJCOMs/DRUs. He has an array of Fire Department experience, ranging from basic firefighting duties, driver operator, crew chief, station chief and finally as a fire inspector. In 2013 as a Crew Chief, Harris responded to a multi-vehicle accident and led the extrication of 6 trapped and severely injured passengers. Harris directed firefighters to render care and immobilize all patients, preventing further injury and leading to their full recovery. Also, while serving at Soto Cano AB, Honduras, Harris showcased exceptional Mutual Operational Knowledge and Sharing Experience by instructing 40 hours of training for 79 multinational firefighters, encompassing 60 live-fire evolutions and strengthening the partner capacities with six Central American Countries.

Spec. Devin Hatch

1st Air Defense Artillery
From the start of his military career, Spec. Devin Hatch had demonstrated his potential to lead and was selected for early promotion from Private to Private First Class upon completion of Basic Combat Training. Upon his arrival to Advanced Individual Training, he was entrusted with the position to represent his company in the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) program, serving in that position for four months. When arriving to his first assignment, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1St Battalion, 1St Air Defense Artillery (1-1 ADA), he was reintroduced to the BOSS Program as an alternate representative for his unit. Not long after his arrival and new duty appointment, he learned his unit had adopted Kadena Middle School and Kadena High School. Realizing this was a great way for him to emerge himself in the new community, he did not hesitate to volunteer, doing anything from moving furniture in and out of classrooms to attending Red Ribbon Week. After some time, he was presented with opportunity to become 1-1ADA Battalion BOSS Representative, which led to the nomination and selection to be the BOSS Vice President for United States Army Garrison Okinawa. As member of the BOSS Program, he has made it possible for over 20 soldiers to obtain their dive certification, experience aviation, zip lining and free bus trips to explore different portions of the island. He also helped at volunteer events that help to bring our Army community closer to our Japanese host community. Hatch continues to use the BOSS program to take care of other individuals and improve readiness of the soldiers by boosting morale.

Sgt. Benjamin H. Sutton

3D Marine Division
While in Iwakuni, Sgt. Benjamin H. Sutton attended Corporal’s Course and shortly after was nominated as The NCO of the Quarter for the command. Throughout his time at VMFA (AW)-225, Sutton enthusiastically dedicated over 150 hours of his personal time specifically towards the development of his community. Sutton’s perseverance and zeal allowed him to effectively contribute to the public in a multitude of ways, ranging from cleaning neighborhoods and improving U.S.-Japanese relations while deployed, to organizing a canned food drive which resulted in over $2,000 and 200 lbs. of food donated to low-income seniors in California. Upon returning from the unit deployment program, Sutton was the first Marine to attend the Air Force’s F-15E Intelligence Formal Training Unit, where he was recognized as the superior performer for his class. After graduating from the course, Sergeant Sutton executed a permanent change of station to 12th Marine Regiment in March 2016, where he currently serves as the Regimental Intelligence Chief, a billet normally held by a Gunnery Sergeant. Without hesitation, Sutton immediately began to volunteer at the Camp Hansen USO, and was selected as Volunteer of the Month, totaling over 320 hours. After being promoted to Sergeant in June of 2016, Sutton attended the MAGTF Enlisted Intelligence Analyst Course, in which he earned a secondary MOS of 0239: Intelligence Analyst. Throughout Sutton’s time in Okinawa, he has generously volunteered over 450 hours focused on improving all aspects of the community, to include teaching English to Japanese school children at the Yaka Community Center, as well as playing games with and taking care of disabled adults from the Reimi No Soto Senior Home. Sutton takes pride in his job and pride in contributing to the organizations’ success.  He represents all of the qualities of the future of the Marine Corps. 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Arvin A. Pangalangan

U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa
In January 2014 Petty Officer Second Class Arvin A. Pangalangan reported to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa as the Leading Petty Officer for the Intensive Care Unit, providing leadership to 11 junior enlisted Corpsmen and also managing a $634,721 annual OPTAR. He was promoted to Petty Officer Second Class in November 2014. He was named Junior Sailor of the 2nd Quarter, FY 2016, and recently was awarded the USNH Okinawa Junior Sailor of the Year FY 2016. He is a stellar performer that exemplifies the Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  He has responded to every challenge with a positive attitude and consistently produced outstanding results. Pangalangan’s military awards includes two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, one Army Achievement Medal with various service and unit awards.  He is most proud of his Enlisted Fleet Marine Force Specialist pin and he plans to stay in the Navy and earn a Bachelor’s degree. But his ultimate goal is to get selected as a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Takuya Higashi

EOD Okinawa Naval Base
3rd Petty Officer Takuya Higashi currently works as a member of Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit in Okinawa Naval Base.  Born in 1988 in Nagasaki Prefecture, Higashi enrolled in Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as a student of 16th Petty Officer Candidate course in March 2006. He worked mainly as a medical staff at JSDF Sasebo Hospital, Yokosuka Hospital and the destroyer Isoyuki. After acquiring skills as an EOD specialist, he worked in Sasebo and Okinawa EOD units. EOD deals with explosive substances in waters, and by diving by themselves there is always a great risk of explosion. There are more unexposed shells in Okinawa than any other region in Japan. Higashi has been making a great contribution to regional safety by engaging in disposal tasks as many as 15 times (1,061 shells, 3.3 tons). As a member of Okinawa EOD, Higashi joined Okinawa’s traditional event known as Hari competition (dragon boat race). He became a team leader and planned carried out an uncompromisingly strict training menu for the team. In 2016, his team won five Hari races, finished second place twice, and third place once. He significantly contributed to the success of the Hari competitions. In addition, Higashi passionately coached the U.S. Military Hari team in Okinawa and led them to win, making a great contribution to team building between Japan Self-Defense Forces, the U.S. Military and local community.

Sgt. Shinya Higashi

15th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment
Sgt. Shinya Higashi belongs to JGSDF 15th Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment Headquarters Administrative Company and works as a medical non-commissioned officer. Higashi is currently in the first administrative section. He acts as MC for many occasions and as a regiment language staff.  Higashi also liaises with his counterpart in the U.S. Army 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, attending various exchange events and training observations. Through that, he is one of the excellent officials making a significant contribution to air defense in Okinawa. Higashi participated in training in the U.S. with the U.S. Marine Corps as part of the medical staff in February 2016 and received an award. Aside from his work, he regularly joins language exchange programs with the U.S. Army 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment on Kadena Air Base to improve his language ability and enhance mutual understandings between the U.S. and Japan. On his holidays, Higashi passionately conducts physical training to improve his skills as a Self-Defense Forces official and lead younger troopes. He is a good model for our society and Japan Self-Defense Forces.

Staff Sgt. Kouhei Uchida

5th Air Defense Missile Group
Although Kouhei Uchida is a Staff Sergeant, he showed great skill, built trust and was appointed as a chief of the electrical section. He diligently conducts his daily tasks and tries to vitalize the section and has made contributions to build a strong but comfortable working environment in the section. During the Fifth Air Defense Missile Group English competition in JFY2015, Uchida worked as a core member of the team and won the championship. As a reward, he took part in English competition of Southwestern Composite Air Division as a representative of 5th Air Defense Missile Group the same year. He not only improved his own English ability, but also tried hard to boost the English ability in his unit by positively instructing other members in his unit. Uchida participated the 1st NCOPE and U.S. Air Force in Japan training held on Kadena Air Base, working hard to improve his English ability and knowledge of the U.S. military. He made a great contribution to building up mutual understandings with U.S. military by exchanging his opinions about differences between U.S. military and JSDF and their culture. Uchida positively participated in volunteer activities organized by the Naha Base NCO group and made contributions to the local community. He also tries to build a strong and deep human relationship with neighboring residents. Uchida uses any opportunity to build friendship and trust between Japan and U.S. service members. Uchida also participated in the Ministry of Defense and JSDF 60th Anniversary Music Festival in 2014 as a member of Ashiya-Gion Taiko (drum). He made a great contribution and the Taiko team was awarded by the Chief of Staff of JASDF.