Meet new Atsugi XO, Cmdr. Szoka
The NAF Atsugi Public Affairs team recently caught up with incoming Executive Officer Matthew Szoka for a quick Q&A session to ask the questions the community wants to know.
Q: What is your hometown?
A: Poway, CA (suburb of San Diego)
Q: Briefly tell us about your Navy career pathway thus far and how you were led to NAF Atsugi as the incoming XO.
A: I’m a Navy brat, the son of a Tomcat pilot. I’m a carrierbased helicopter pilot (SH-60F and HH-60H). I have spent most of my career in San Diego but this is my second time in Japan. During my last tour here, I was the mission lead for the first DoD rescue mission of Operation Tomodachi.
Q: Please share with us your prior experience being stationed in Japan. How does this experience differ from your previous Atsugi tour? What do you enjoy most about Japan?
A: The Biggest difference is not being part of the Air Wing and seeing things from a different perspective. It is hard to pick just one thing I enjoy about Japan and Atsugi. I love the culture, people, the food, and all the adventure to be had. At Atsugi, I really enjoy the friendly and welcoming atmosphere and being part of the world’s largest metropolitan area.
Q: As the incoming NAFA XO, what topic is the biggest priority that you want to focus on?
A: Executing the base’s mission as laid out by the Skipper. We are an operational base and play a vital role in this AOR (Area of Responsibility). I want to continue making this a great place to live for both families and single sailors alike.
Q: How do you plan to accomplish that mission?
A: Using the Skipper’s Mission, Vision, and Guiding Principles statement, and his Expectations memo. We really put a lot of thought into these documents and every one of us needs to read these and be familiar with them. I am also going to leverage the experience and talent that I have in my Department Heads. Both the Skipper and I view them as our leadership council and expect them to play a large role in the running of this installation. But when it comes down to it, no matter if you have the best intentions, it is all bound to fail if you don’t communicate.
Q: What is one piece of your vision as XO, that you want the Sailors and families aboard NAF Atsugi to know ?
A: I want the Sailors and their families to feel like Atsugi is their home and not someplace that they are forced to live for a few years. I want them to be happy living here and to take pride in the base.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A:I really enjoy traveling. All aspects of it: new culture, new foods, history, seeing things in different perspectives, and talking to locals. My other big passion is food. I am a pretty good cook and I love trying need things and playing with recipes. I don’t think that I have ever cooked my chili the same way twice! When it comes to sports, I love anything that involves the water. I started swimming competitively at 8 and playing water polo at 14. I challenge anyone to beat me in the swim portion of the PRT!
Q: Any additional pieces of information you would like to share with readers and the base audience?
A: I’m excited to be back in Japan and excited to be a part of the Atsugi leadership team.