News: Navy Misawa sailors, civilians recognized with Zenkokai Award
TOKYO, Japan – The Nippon Zenkokai Association honored U.S. sailors and Department of Defense civilians for outstanding public service in the Japanese community at the Meiji-Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, Nov. 26.
Navy Misawa was recognized with four total awards, two for individual achievements, and two for organizational.
Among those recognized were Naval Air Facility Misawa's Safety Officer Jeff Wilson, Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class Dennis Koon attached to Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment Misawa, NAFM's First Class Petty Officer Association, and Navy Information Operations Command Misawa.
The Zenkokai Award, translated as the “Good Conduct” Award, is an annual commendation given to select individuals or organizations that have provided significant contributions within their local communities.
"I was surprised and humbled to be selected for this award," said Wilson, who was nominated for an individual award for his vast involvement in the local community. "Being honored by the Japanese for doing something that I feel privileged to be doing in the first place is very special to me."
Wilson has been heavily involved in the local community during his time in Misawa. No where was this more evident than in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, March 11, 2011, which triggered a devastating tsunami in northern Japan. Wilson and his wife, Alice, frequently made trips to the tsunami-ravaged town of Noda, Japan, to serve hot meals to the residents there.
"My wife Alice has been by my side my entire tour here, and I would like to share this award with her," said Wilson. "We will be leaving Japan soon and being recognized like this by the Japanese is the capstone of my time here."
Wilson also works closely with the NAFM First Class Petty Officer Association and their sponsorship of a local children's home.
"THE [NAFM FCPOA] has a long history with the Bikou-en Children's home,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Lydale Hyde, NAFM FCPOA president. “We have built a strong relationship with them over the years and we look forward to continuing that friendship and making it stronger.”
This isn't the first time the NAFM FCPOA has been recognized for their work in the community. This organization was also selected for the Zenkokai Award last year.
Hyde, a native of Columbus, Ga., said that he looks forward to the FCPOA continuing its work in the community.
"We've got a lot of new faces here, and they're bringing new ideas to the table on how to get involved," Said Hyde. "I hope to see my fellow first class petty officers and myself giving more to the local community in the coming year.
"On their behalf, I'm excited to be able to receive this award for our association,” he added.
Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment Misawa’s Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Dennis Koon received an individual award.
Koon, originally from Dixon, Mo., has volunteered numerous off-duty hours teaching English to children at the Misawa International Association. Additionally, he created a program that collected and shipped school supplies to children in tsunami-affected areas, while also assisting with the Oriase Town recycling program.
"Being selected for this award is a very humbling and rewarding experience - a once in a life-time opportunity," said Koon. "I would like to recommend to anyone coming here that they get involved. It can be tough at first with the language barrier, but the more involved you get, the more friends you will make, and the more enjoyable your time in Misawa will be."
Navy Information Operations Command Misawa has also been previously recognized with a Zenkokai award. NIOC Misawa sailors have volunteered in the local community for decades, including at an after school study program where they teach English, and at the Akebono Orphanage, which they visit several times a year to perform numerous community service projects.
NIOC Commanding Officer Cmdr. Tyrone Ward said he couldn't be more proud of his sailors.
"What an honor to be recognized by the government of Japan in this way. It speaks to the hard work and selfless dedication of our crew throughout the year,” he said. “And the fact that we have won this award twice in the last three years is a tribute to our lasting commitment to this special community, specifically in the areas around Misawa Air Base.
During the ceremony, Capt. Richard Weathers, commander of Fleet Activities Okinawa, represented the Navy while giving
congratulatory remarks to all the Zenkokai Award recipients.
“These men and women did not engage in the activities that won them this great honor for the purpose of public recognition,” said Weathers. “They did so because they sincerely want to be a part of their community and friends to their Japanese neighbors, and because of the great love they bear for the nation of Japan.”
The Zenkokai Association, an independent non-profit organization under the control of the cabinet office of the government of Japan, was founded in 1951. Since then they’ve given this annual award out, and in 1955, opened nominations up for foreigners, including U.S. service members and civilians. The award is broken down into four categories including juvenile, emergency contributions, international contributions, and a special foreigner's category.
For more news from Naval Air Facility Misawa, visit https://www.cnic.navy.mil/misawa/index.htm or check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nafmisawa.