SETAF leader eager to attack base issues
VICENZA, Italy — It’s standard procedure for incoming commanders to put their own touches on their new unit or community.
But it doesn’t take a member of TV’s “Crime Scene Investigation” squad to spot the fingerprints Brig. Gen. Jason Kamiya has left all over his new post.
“Sometimes it takes the senior leader to jump in there and at least get the momentum going,” said Kamiya, who took over command of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) on April 30.
Jumping is something they do quite a bit of at Vicenza. But Kamiya isn’t referring to a leap from a plane with a parachute. Instead, he’s talking about an array of issues he’s trying to get resolved — or at least in the pipeline — before most of the base’s active-duty population deploys to Afghanistan early next year.
Kamiya says he has three general objectives at present: address ongoing problems at Caserma Ederle; plan for the yearlong mission to Afghanistan; and lay the groundwork for an additional 2,000 troops coming to northern Italy.
He’ll talk about the latter two — which he refers to as his “midterm” and “long-term” challenges — mostly in general terms. Military leaders aren’t fond of discussing plans for upcoming operations, and a series of talks are still to be held with the Italian government before announcements are made on where new troops will be based.
But Kamiya appears eager to discuss a series of moves that SETAF and the 22nd Area Support Group are exploring to tackle a number of nagging issues:
• Parking. There are about 7,000 vehicles registered at Caserma Ederle and about 2,000 parking spaces on base, with some of those closed off by an array of construction projects. Officials are looking at off-base options and expanding the hours and scope of the current shuttle-bus program.
• Haircuts. Soldiers complained they have to wait hours sometimes at the Army and Air Force Exchange’s small shop. So another barber has been hired to set up shop in the 173rd Airborne Brigade headquarters. More will follow.
• Paperwork. Some space at the Golden Lion community club will soon be devoted to a facility where most, if not all, of inprocessing and outprocessing takes place.
Interagency cooperation. Kamiya said several issues could be solved if sometimes competing operations went from a “culture of ownership to a culture of enterprise” — in other words, share their resources and cooperate.
Kamiya admits there are probably dozens of other issues that concern community members. So the base will hold monthly Community Action Council meetings where people can grab a microphone and fire away.
Asked if he’ll personally attend such meetings — the first is set for Sept. 22 — Kamiya said: “I attended every single one at Fort Polk.”
He said the process would work better for all concerned if those with issues send a message through the base’s Web site a few weeks before the meeting. That way, issues can be researched and addressed at the meetings.
But he doesn’t expect a smooth ride, at least initially, calling the initiative “kind of like leading with your chin.”
The base’s biggest focus, though, may be on family support efforts.
Elements across the base pulled together during the 173rd’s yearlong deployment to Iraq that ended in March. Now they’ll have to do it again — with even more troops gone — in early spring.
“My sense is that regardless of how well we did, there’s always ways to improve and lessons to learn,” Kamiya said.
So he used four days of scheduled meetings at Camp Darby at the start of August to get started, more than seven months before troops will likely deploy.
The goal, he said, was to get ideas on how to improve, integrate them into existing programs and get everything up and running before the troops leave.
Kamiya said he’d like to get many of the issues resolved quickly, because planning for Afghanistan will take larger chunks of the command’s efforts as the months progress.
“In reality, I wish that I could be devoting 100 percent to the warfighting, to Afghanistan,” he said. But he admitted he will probably still be focusing on some other issues “when I board that airplane.”