By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) celebrated the beginning of the year during the annual New Year Ceremony, Jan. 15, 2016. Attendees crowded into Carpenter Shop and exchanged New Year’s greetings in a Japanese ceremonial atmosphere. The function included addresses by SRF-JRMC Commanding Officer Capt. Garrett Farman and Director of the Yokosuka Defense Office Chief Hisayuki Honda, as well as a presentation of safety awards and Sailors of the Year and Japanese “sake barrel breaking.” Attendees composed of U.S. and Japan military and civilian representatives.
“Thank you for joining us here!” said Farman. “I am honored you have taken time out of your busy schedules to share this celebration with us at SRF-JRMC, and like many cultures, SRF-JRMC celebrates the New Year by reflecting on the past year and rededicating ourselves to the future.”
Farman also mentioned this year falls upon the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese calendar.
“People born on this year are said to be naturally dominant,” added Farman. “They automatically gravitate toward leadership roles and are competitive in whatever they do. When they are in charge of a situation, their people skills kick in to nurture those under their care.
“I recognize how strongly this characteristic resonates with SRF-JRMC. Day in and day out, we strive to be in control and on top of all Fleet ship repair and maintenance work to meet our mission to ‘Keep the Seventh Fleet Operationally Ready.’ SRF-JRMC’s amazing ship repair, maintenance, modernization, and Fleet Technical Support teams support the Navy in sustaining its critical presence. And, it is our people who make SRF-JRMC a valuable Fleet asset.”
“I hope for the safety and protection of all the employees as the business continues,” said Honda. “I hope you are united closely under Captain Farman’s leadership and safely accomplish the duties this year as before.”
During the ceremony, Farman also recognized SRF-JRMC’s Senior and Junior Sailors of the Year (SOY) Navy Diver 1st Class Alberto Alejo Jr. and Navy Diver 2nd Class Brandon Wilmot. The Sailor of the Year program recognizes Sailors’ exemplary performance and dedication they exhibit on a daily basis.
“I feel very fortunate being recognized as the Command Senior Sailor of the Year,” said Alejo, who credited teamwork for the award.
“I would like to recognize the entire SRF Deep Sea Dive Locker for all their support and especially Master Diver [Bill] Dodd for guiding me in my career.”
Farman also recognized two shops and a shop supervisor with annual Safety Awards for maintaining excellent safety records for the past year.
The Safety Award under the “Large Shop” category, which is characterized by having 70 or more employees, was given to Electrical Shop. “Since our shop deals with an invisible force like electricity, we should be particularly careful about safety,” said Electrical Shop Head Hitoshi Nakamura. “Every morning, we have a pre-shift briefing by Foreman B to make sure of everyone’s condition. And then at the worksite, Foreman B conducts a pre-job briefing to ensure our safety. We would continuously like to improve ourselves and contribute to the readiness of the Seventh Fleet.”
The Safety Award under the “Small Shop” category, which is characterized by having less than 70 employees, went to Machine Shop. “I greatly appreciate everyone’s watchfulness,” said Machine Shop Head Kazuyoshi Suzuki. He added that everyone’s strong awareness, including that of each supervisor, made this happen.
The Safety Award for “Best Supervisor” category was given to Foreman C Kazuo Amakasu of Electrical Shop. “We exchange ideas about what could become dangerous or how can we maintain safety on a daily basis,” said Amakasu. “It is not only my effort but our team’s that should be worth being recognized. By keeping the safety first, we will try our best to earn the award again, next year.”
The post-ceremony reception opened with a traditional Japanese chant by shipyard workers and fire safety watch workers, known as kiyari. The end of the chant signals for action to crack open a sake barrel top with wooden mallets.
The ceremony, called kagamiwari (in Japanese, literally means “mirror breaking”), connotes everyone present will be in harmony by having sake (Japanese rice wine) together. Adding relevance to the tradition, the barrel lid’s round shape represents a circle or “wa,” meaning conformity. This sake feast in which people share the deity-offered drinks from one cask is believed to bring friendship, good luck and health for the new year.
Guests and SRF-JRMC employees enjoyed a variety of food and beverages, while a Taiko performance group provided traditional Japanese entertainment. On top of traditional Japanese food like sushi, and karaage (Japanese- style fried chicken), SRF-JRMC teams set up stalls and served soba (Japanese noodle) and oden (vegetables and fish dumplings stewed in thin stock).
“We will continue to contribute to the mutual understanding and friendship among Japanese and American workforce through sponsoring enjoyable events,” said SRF-JRMC Friendly Society President Keisuke Oosaki, whose organization coordinated and set up the event.
Boasting more than 2,000 Japanese civilian employees under the Master Labor Contract (MLC) together with U.S. Navy and civilian personnel, SRF-JRMC forms a unique and culturally diverse organization which is focused on maintaining and supporting the Seventh Fleet Forward-Deployed ships to promote peace and maritime stability.