Camp Zama Soldiers connect with Nissan community
ZAMA CITY, Japan – When Army Sgt. Jery L. Hernandezpilier stepped off the tour bus and onto Nissan's Zama Operations Center, he expected to see a few concept cars and a maybe a compact rolling lazily off an assembly line.
It didn't take long for Hernandezpilier and his fellow Soldiers from U.S. Army Japan's motor pool in Camp Zama who joined the June 18, 2015, tour to realize that their hosts had a special way to show their distinguished guests in uniform what their corporate motto, “The power comes from the inside,” means to the Nissan community.
“This was more than your typical tour of an assembly line,” said Hernandezpilier, a power generation equipment repairer for Headquarters & Headquarters Company USARJ. “Nissan didn't just showcase their machines. They introduced us to the very people who build these machines.”
Shuji Narazaki, manager of Nissan's human resources division, welcomed his honored guests with an introduction of four of the company's finest technicians.
“These young men before you will represent Japan in the 2015 WorldSkills Olympics in Brazil,” said Narazaki to the small but lively crowd of Soldiers. “Today they will demonstrate their craftsmanship as they prepare to compete on the world stage.”
According to its official website, the WorldSkills Olympics stands as the largest professional conference in world history. Thousands of technicians hailing from more than 50 countries converge in one city every two years to compete in one of dozens of professional specialties from manufacturing and mobile robotics to hairdressing and graphic design. In August, four of Nissan's young professionals will join Team Japan as they pursue bronze, silver and (preferably) gold medals through their engineering expertise.
After watching a brief video summarizing Nissan's achievements in previous WorldSkills Olympics, the hosts divided their guests into three groups and led them to one of three rooms. There, the troops witnessed firsthand the stellar speed and pinpoint precision exemplified by these automotive savants.
“Never in all my years working in and around vehicles have I seen a single person disassemble an entire engine, diagnose the problem, fix it and reassemble the engine in 45 minutes,” recalled Hernandezpilier. “Amazing still is the fact that this man is not yet old enough to legally drink alcohol in the U.S. His skills and knowledge showed us that youth and inexperience are not always related.”
While Shintaro Matsumoto manipulated the engine with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew, his companions – Shogo Abe, Mizuki Tatsuno, Daiki Wada – toiled in separate rooms with their unique projects.
“[Abe] was busy designing a complex part with finite resources using a CAD (Computer Based Design Program) while [Tatsuna and Wada] were busy building an assembly line that would soon produce [Abe's] design,” said Hernandezpilier. “Their speed and precision brought shock and awe to our group.”
Standing alongside Hernandezpilier and his motor pool companions was Army Command Sgt. Maj. Rosalba Dumont-Carrion, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Garrison Japan. While she, too, admired Nissan's prodigies, Dumont-Carrion could also sense where Nissan's philosophy and the Army values intersected.
“Nissan and the Army cherish commitment and uphold integrity,” said Dumont-Carrion. “We both respect those who serve us with honor and award them with limitless opportunities to grow in their profession thanks to a career plan that spans several decades.”
After shaking hands, posing for group photos and wishing one another the very best in their career endeavors, the tour guides led their American guests to the Nissan Heritage Museum. A narrow hallway partially disguised as a modest entrance to a warehouse unveiled an eclectic collection of Nissan's diverse line of vehicles dating as far back as the 1930s.
“The site almost brought a tear to my eye,” said Hernandezpilier. It’s hard to imagine how much time and talent was required to build, maintain and restore these vehicles … Fairladies, Skylines, Roadsters … It's a dream come true.”
Ayaro Eguchi, the group's tour guide, explained that a majority of the more than 350 cars, trucks, vans and even race cars were donated by private owners or collectors, and approximately 70 percent of them remain in operable condition.
“Nissan is a brand that has literally made its way to every major road in the world,” said Dumont-Carrion. “The Japanese people have every right to showcase this achievement. The fact that Nissan personally invited us to see this speaks volumes of their respect for the U.S. Army.
As the Soldiers, Department of Defense civilians and family members bade farewell and boarded the Nissan tour bus bound for Camp Zama, Hernandezpilier and Dumont-Carrion reflected on the long-term impact of their visit.
“It was a beautiful experience,” said Hernandezpilier. “We got exclusive access to Japan's master craftsmen who have inspired me to master my craft.”
“I cannot be more proud of my fellow Soldiers as they show our gracious hosts what it means to be a professional in the United States Army, said Dumont-Carrion. “The heart of the Army lies with its Soldiers and families, and here at Nissan, I saw the same relationship between the company and its community.”