Okinawa employees recognized by Department of the Army

by Mr. Richard L Rzepka
U.S. Army Garrison Okinawa

A pair of U.S. Army Garrison -- Okinawa employees recently raised the bar of excellence here, earning two prestigious Department of the Army-level awards for safety and Army Community Service.

Safety Program Administrator Etsumi Kawahira and Community Life Specialist Orathay Cusimano are being recognized with the Director of Army Safety Risk Management Award and the Army Community Service Individual Award of excellence, respectively.

The Director of Army Safety Risk Management Award is a DA-level unit safety award in which an individual or organization must have demonstrated exemplary leadership or made a significant contribution to Army readiness through risk management. The evaluation criteria for the Individual Army Community Service Award of Excellence is based on excellence in leadership, improvement of programs and services, creativity and outstanding performance.

Both Cusimano and Kawahira are known throughout the Army's home on Okinawa as dedicated, innovative and high-level performers who put the wellbeing of Soldiers, Families and civilians first.

"[Kawahira's] performance has been excellent and flawless thus her nomination recommendation from this office for the award," said IMCOM Pacific Region Safety Manager Donald Paglioni. "It is a rare and unique opportunity that a Local National Safety Specialist, such as Ms. Kawahira, is nominated to compete for a Department of the Army Safety Award. Normally, United States Army Soldiers and civilians are nominated for Department of the Army Safety Awards," he said.

Army Community Service Director Jewel Csiszar is proud of Cusimano's accomplishment and considers a key asset in restructuring the program for the Army on Okinawa.

"It is a good feeling to have a USAG-Okinawa ACS person acknowledged as the most outstanding small size garrison employee worldwide at the HQDA level," said Csiszar. "It speaks volumes to the progress we are making here," she said.

For Cusimano and Kawahira, who both remain humble about their achievements, the real satisfaction is knowing they make a difference in the lives of the Army Family on a daily basis.

"How does it feel? Well to be honest I don't like the attention," said Cusimano who claims to be in her late 20's. "There's other installations who have so much more to offer, with unlimited amount of resources than we do and to win this award for us is truly a humble experience for our small installation," she said. "Our community is compiled of not just one individual, it's built on family units and you can't be ACS without the community to serve."

Kawahira, who was responsible for safety program administration and safety training for Soldiers and civilians during the absence of a DA civilian, has her own philosophy on why safety is critical to Army operations on Torii Station.

"Safety is the important non-visible supporting team to the commander and should be well visible to all other work forces … and that our main purpose is accident prevention and to keep the accident rate non-visible -- as low as possible," said Kawahira.

Her boss and Garrison Safety Manager said that she is a consummate professional who always strives to produce high-quality work for the more than 4,000 Soldiers, Families and civilians on the island.

"She looks for ways to smooth out the work processes so I and her coworkers efficiently deliver products and services," said Wilson. "As a safety professional, she is always concerned about the safety of everyone involved by understanding that the work itself may be hazardous and lead to injury if the proper precautions are not in place."

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