Local firefighter continues tradition of excellence
Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC) announced the winners of the 2014 Navy Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) Awards March 18, which recognized Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi firefighter, Kazuyuki Ogasawara, as the Navy Civilian Firefighter of the Year.
The F&ES awards are presented by CNIC each year to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of Department of the Navy fire departments and firefighters. The award is a first for Ogasawara, who has served at the Commander, Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ) Regional Fire Department at NAF Atsugi for more than twenty years. Ogasawara is affectionately known as the “Drill Master” among his peers because he arranges and provides so much of the training for the firefighters, according to NAF Atsugi Fire Chief Peter Sorensen. Ogasawara was selected from among competitors across all naval installations.
He said an award such as this carries special significance given that all firefighters at NAF Atsugi are Master Labor Contractors (MLC) and Japanese Nationals.
“I am not from America and I am not Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) sponsored, so receiving this recognition is a very exciting experience. It’s unbelievable,” Ogasawara said humbly.
“He’s energetic, thoughtful, and he thinks problems through from start to finish, finding the best way to cut through to a solution,” said Peter Sorensen. “Ogasawarasan is an integral part of our mission because his focus is preparing our firefighters to better perform their jobs.” Sorensen noted there were several outstanding factors that
contributed to Ogasawara’s award, many of which focused on the comprehensive training of his fellow firefighting crews.
“He created a program with Camp Fuji where firefighters there would come to Atsugi for helicopter live-fire training and egress training. That way, if helicopters from Atsugi fly there and have an issue, Camp Fuji is better prepared to provide fire services, which they did not previously have,” Sorensen explained.
In addition, Ogasawara also arranged for firefighting crews to have access to several Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) P-3 Orions set to be scrapped. Ogasawara coordinated their use for specialized training, allowing firefighters to practice cutting through the skin of aircraft and perform egress training, otherwise not available on operational planes.
The NAF Atsugi Fire Station is not new to accolades. In 2013 CNIC named Sorensen as the Navy and DoD Civilian Fire Officer of the Year. In 2011 CNIC recognized the NAF Atsugi Fire Station as the Navy’s Medium Size Fire Station of the Year.
“These awards not only highlight the individual accomplishments of the Atsugi Fire Department, but also showcase the cooperative nature the team has with both base tenants and the Japanese government,” said NAF Atsugi’s Commanding Officer Captain John Bushey.
“Part of the difference in what we do here is the training we have with the JMSDF, Ayase City, and Yamato City firefighters to expand the “fire safety net” and enhance interoperability,” remarked Sorensen. “In the States, you have one way of doing things and one language; but here in Japan we have different people from a different culture all trying to do the same thing but from different perspectives.
This relationship enables us to have a wider focus on the mission and come up with very unique solutions and processes.”
Ogasawara said working with a variety of base customers has made his job that much more rewarding. “I always enjoy working with Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) squadrons because of how helpful they are. I also appreciate the work of the Sailors at NAF Atsugi, my crews and the support of my family.”
“Although the firefighters in the big fire trucks get much attention, our fire prevention office works hard with commands, contractors, and the public to help keep a bad situation from even happening,” Sorensen said, echoing the sentiment of teamwork.
Ogasawara will now progress to the DoD level awards competition for consideration. The winners will be announced later this year.