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CAMP ZAMA, Japan — In the past few days, the Army and the Department of Defense confirmed what some soldiers already know: Japan in a great place to be stationed.

And with at least $2 million in award money on the way, life could be getting even better.

U.S. Army Garrison, Japan, headquartered at Camp Zama, picked up that chunk of change by winning the Army Community of Excellence Award for 2006. The command also picked up the Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. Base officials had no word on how much money that will bring to the command.

Beating out Fort George G. Meade in Maryland and Fort A.P. Hill, Va., to claim the top spot in the ACOE means that USAG-J will receive $2 million to be used for community projects.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved,” said USAG-J commander Col. Robert M. Waltemeyer on Friday. “Clearly, this was a team effort.”

The two awards apply not only to Camp Zama, but to all Army installations in Japan and Okinawa, Waltemeyer said, pointing out that this was first time that USAG-J has won the awards.

The ACOE competition is not just about who has the best chow halls or barracks. Commands are judged on the quality of the installation’s overall operation.

While many winners tout the multimillion-dollar base improvement projects, Waltemeyer said that the “secret” to USAG-J’s success is communication.

“Our internal education process really was key to communicating our vision to all levels of the community,” he said, explaining that part of that communication experience comes from working side-by-side with Japanese employees every day.

Ensuring the necessary documents and information are translated into Japanese and that everyone is getting the right information is vital to operations, Waltemeyer said.

According to a U.S. Army Installation Management Command release, the judging for the award is done in a way so the competing installations, regardless of their size, are judged against a specific set of criteria, not against each other. These criteria include leadership, strategic planning, process management and results.

According to the release, “the award recognizes continuous business process improvement, individual innovation, groundbreaking initiatives, and dedication to efficiency and customer care.”

By examining how different installations operate, Waltemeyer said, the Army is able to find the best business practices for the Army community.

“Hopefully people will use Camp Zama as an example of best business practices and how to better serve our soldiers, civilian employees, retirees and family members,” he said.

Waltemeyer added that no plans have been made yet on how the award money will be spent.

The awards presentations for the ACOE and the Commander in Chief’s Annual Award will take place on May 3 and 4, respectively, at the Pentagon.

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