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TORII STATION, Okinawa — Col. Janice M. Berry seemed a bit wistful Monday during a change-of-command rehearsal at Torii Beach — but then, she had just 24 hours left on what she calls one of her best tours in a 26-year Army career.

“I really haven’t had a bad Army day since I took command,” said the commander of the Army’s 10th Area Support Group, as a band on loan from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force practiced and soldiers from her command readied for another round of marching in review.

On Tuesday, Berry was to hand the command to Col. Anthony L. Williams.

“If you look out at the soldiers out here on the parade field, you’ll understand why they really are some of America’s finest and I’m really proud to have served with them,” she said.

She said her two years on Okinawa were “fantastic,” with the highlight being when the 10th ASG won the Department of Defense and Department of the Army Community of Excellence Award. The award came with a check for $3 million.

It’s the people in the command that made the difference, Berry said.

“You’re not recognized as a community of excellence without really great people,” she said. “And I’m not talking about just the soldiers. I’m talking about our civilians and our Japanese master labor contractors. You have to be the full-meal deal to be recognized like that. So you can imagine how proud I am to have been able to serve with folks like that in my command.”

The Army has the smallest contingent among U.S. forces on Okinawa, with about 1,200 people spread over several bases. But in the “joint atmosphere” of the U.S. military on the island the Army has important responsibilities, Berry said.

“The one thing we do for everybody on this island is we provide them with fuel,” said Berry, 47. “There’s not a vehicle owned by an individual citizen that shops at AAFES, or a fighter jet, or much of the amphibious ready group that doesn’t use fuel supplied by the 10th ASG. Where the Navy has the hospital and takes care of port operations, and the Air Force flies and takes care of housing and services, and the Marines are involved in training areas and leadership at the highest levels, the Army provides fuel and strategic communications.

“This is really a very joint community,” she said. “It’s been more joint than any place that I have ever been, we are so interdependent. So, it’s been great to build those relationships with our sister services and our Japan Self-Defense Force teammates.”

During Berry’s tour, the 10th ASG commander’s job was expanded. Now she also oversees three battalions on mainland Japan.

She’s come a long way from enlisting in the Army in 1978 as one of the last WACs.

“I started in the Women’s Army Corps as one of its last young troopers,” she said. “I was a crew chief on UH1H helicopters until I was selected to go to officers candidate school at Fort Benning. I was commissioned as quartermaster officer in 1980.”

She has served as a quartermaster officer her entire career. When she leaves Okinawa later this week, she is to head to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama to command the U.S. Army Logistics Support Activity.

One of the things about Okinawa she will miss most, Berry said, is the Okinawan people.

“I really didn’t know what to expect from the Okinawan culture,” she said. Being able “to be so involved in many of the celebrations and festivities has been very rewarding as I’ve made friends with so many Okinawans.”

“I am going to miss the heart and spirit of the 10th ASG Army on Okinawa and I’ll miss the spirited hearts of the people here on Okinawa, who have been so generous and forthcoming,” she said, looking out over the East China Sea.

“This is such a beautiful island and Okinawa is really a very special place,” she said. “I truly believe that the local expression ‘chariba chode’ — ‘once we have met we are all brothers and sisters’ — is really true. … If I were to return to Okinawa, I would feel as if I had just left yesterday.”

Berry will be relieved by Williams, a 23-year Army veteran whose most recent assignment was as a student at the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Penn. His past assignments include operations officer and deputy commander of the 29th Area Support Group in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and command of the 530th Supply and Service Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C. Following the battalion command he served as J4 Director, Special Operations Command, Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

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