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Staff Sgt. Rodney Reed, 35th Fighter Wing, is served lunch at Misawa’s Grissom Dining Hall by Toru Okita, a food service specialist. The dining hall is one of more than 30 activities that earned the 35th Services Squadron the LeMay award.
Staff Sgt. Rodney Reed, 35th Fighter Wing, is served lunch at Misawa’s Grissom Dining Hall by Toru Okita, a food service specialist. The dining hall is one of more than 30 activities that earned the 35th Services Squadron the LeMay award. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Just three days after assuming command of the 35th Services Squadron here, Maj. Kari “Kamo” Mostert got stunning news.

The squadron was notified they had earned the Air Force’s LeMay Award, citing the 700-member squadron as the best services unit in the large-base category worldwide.

However, “I can’t take credit for any of this,” Mostert said unabashedly.

His predecessor, Maj. Liza Paar, was the squadron’s commander for the awarded period and moved to a new assignment last month.

So, Mostert said, taking the reigns of Services is like joining a championship basketball team.

“It’s a great opportunity to come into a place that’s a winning operation,” he said.

If there was ever a squadron that touches day to day the lives of a broad cross-section of military people here, Services Squadron wins hands down.

From the child development center to officers and enlisted clubs, to the dining hall and even mortuary affairs, more than 30 Services facilities offer a wide range of benefits.

Locale has provided the squadron and its people a focus.

“Misawa is considered a remote and isolated assignment — we don’t have some of the amenities folks in Tokyo or at Kadena [Air Base] in Okinawa have,” Mostert said. “We have to provide internally more than what would find in the local community.”

Mostert credits the squadron’s employees — military and civilian — for daily successes.

He lauded the Japanese workers — who make up 50 percent of the squadron’s labor force — as an especially stable component when deployments pull his troops away.

“Half of our military troops have been deployed recently,” he said.

As the second largest employer of military dependents on base after the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Mostert called maintaining an adequate workforce “challenging.”

Because of the military lifestyle, a high level of turnovers hits the squadron almost constantly.

“My club managers tell me they would hire 60 workers right now if they could get them; we’re that short,” he said.

Shortages of qualified providers at the child care centers is also placing a limit on services. Still, Mostert said they fulfill Air Force goals for child care.

“We have the space, but we need more qualified caregivers to meet the demands,” he said.

Mostert lauded the efforts of 35th Fighter Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Dana Atkins, for placing emphasis on quality of life initiatives that brought the squadron more than $1 million in additional funding from Pacific Air Forces in the past year.

Portions of those funds were used to purchase new equipment for the 24-hour Potter Fitness Center, and the conversion of a corner of the Grissom Dining Hall into a cyber café with an alcohol-free sports pub motif.

With the big award ready to occupy a prominent place at the squadron, Mostert said neither his employees nor himself are about to rest on their laurels.

Mostert said plans are in the works for a video gaming network at the Mokuteki community center.

“We’re looking at securing funding, and a contractor has designed the concept, so players can compete against each other,” he said. “Hopefully, we may get it running within the next year.”

Mostert said he wouldn’t mind winning the LeMay award again.

“I would like to see us become a dynasty, taking our standard of excellence to the next level,” he said.

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