CAMP ZAMA, Japan — Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins has been in his new job for just a month, but he is making a point to get to know the approximately 2,000 soldiers in his command.

Perkins, 54, assumed the reins of U.S. Army Japan and the 9th Theater Support Command on June 27 from Maj. Gen. Thomas G. Miller. He’s already visited Kure, a small U.S. Army ammunition depot near Hiroshima, and run with members of the 10th Area Support Group on Okinawa.

Perkins says he’s just getting started: “I’m trying to get out and see as much of the units that make up part of this great command, just to learn what their capabilities are and see how that all fits in with our mission here in Japan,” he said.

Perkins doesn’t plan any immediate policy changes, but he did say cable television soon may be installed at Camp Zama. The Army post near Tokyo is one of the few U.S. military installations in Japan with American Forces Network programming only.

“A contract is being considered,” Perkins said. “Hopefully, sometime in the near future we’ll be able to provide cable TV service to soldiers, civilians and families at Camp Zama and other areas associated with U.S. Army Japan.”

Though Washington is reportedly considering realigning its forces worldwide, Perkins wouldn’t speculate on what changes — if any — are in store for the Army in Japan.

A South Carolina native, Perkins is trained as a combat-arms officer. Previously, he worked at the Pentagon as director of integration for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff. During that assignment, he spent nine months at U.S. Central Command — deploying to Qatar from January to May as deputy director of operations for ground operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The experience “drove home to me the importance of joint operations in today’s environment,” he said.

Perkins sums up his leadership style with one word: trust. “I believe that everybody who gets up and puts on the uniform every day really wants to do their best,” he said.

As commander, his goal is to provide soldiers, families, civilians and the Japanese work force with a safe environment and good quality of life, he said.

Perkins was commissioned into the Army from Georgia Tech’s ROTC program in 1973, after paying his way through college. He served two tours in South Korea. Recalling that experience, he said: “The soldiers are all mission-focused. You don’t have to convince them that there is a threat when you’re underneath the artillery umbrella of the enemy.”

He met his wife, Sungae, during his first tour in South Korea. They have two teenage daughters and a Pomeranian-spitz dog, “Poochie.” Perkins anticipates his command tour will last two years.

“We’re very happy to be here,” he said. “We look forward to a good relationship with everyone, both members of United States Army Japan and our Japanese friends.”

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now