YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --
The mighty Sakura cherry blossom trees that tower over the Yokota streets were once small saplings, no higher than your knee.
Daniel Timperio, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron furniture and upholstery supervisor, and Keiichi Nishimura, 374th CES deputy fire chief, remember the start of these saplings and watched them grow over 40 years of dedicated service to the U.S. Air Force.
Timperio and Nishimura were among the 13 civilian employees on Yokota recognized with a Length of Service award for their decades of commitment to the Air Force.
“The Length of Service award was established to recognize all civilian employees for the service they have completed for a Department of Defense agency,” said Marie Holt, 374th Force Support Squadron civilian personnel chief. “They are recognized by the Air Force for every 10 years they have worked. As time progresses, there are not as many people awarded. Those who serve 30 years are few. Once it gets to 40, 50 and 60 years they are even more rare.”
Both Timperio and Nishimura started working in 1980 in different career fields before landing their current position.
“I use to work at the terminal with the 730th Air Mobility Command,” said Nishimura. “I operated the cargo system, loading and unloading air freight section for three years before I moved to the fire department.”
While Nishimura started his dream job early in his career, Timperio’s work history took a longer detour.
“I married an Airman and that brought a lot of traveling” said Timperio. “If I wanted to stay in civil service, I had to take any job that was open at the time. I spent a good amount of time employed at the commissary. I also worked in the hospital, child care, supply and even the East Middle School here at Yokota before I landed my current occupation, my dream job.”
These individuals have given their life-long devotion to serving our agencies and with it they bring stories of the inevitable changes they witnessed.
“We were shopping in the commissary when it happened,” recalled Timperio. “The shelves all moved just like what you see on tv when there is an earthquake. I went outside and watched as the ground was actually moving. Seeing the result of the earthquake in 2011 was definitely scary moment to witness, but the direct impact off-base shown on the tv it was just awful.”
Bearing witness to the Tohoku earthquake, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the ensuing tsunami that killed thousands, is something etched in both individuals memories. But they also recalled the camaraderie birthed from the humanitarian response provided by U.S. forces in Japan.
“Every day we were working with local Japanese and U.S. responders to assist in recovering from the damage,” said Nishimura. “Because there were so many firefighters coming in to help, they had to sleep in the hallway of the station on temporary cots. The amount of help from responders on all sides was amazing to witness.”
Long-term civilian employees provide the stability that bridges the gaps between active duty movements and significantly influence the culture of our agencies.
“These individuals have such an impact in serving our country,” said Holt. “While our military defends our nation, these civilians help serve at the installation level to establish it for the generations to come. Because this is a significate milestone for all those who serve in this capacity, it’s our responsibility to thank them for all they have given us.”