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Final Good Byes said at NSGA Hanza

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-06-13

A small contingent of sailors from the United States Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) Hanza, said their final farewells to the communications site, at a small flag raising ceremony on Monday morning, June 1, 1998. About 10 U.S. Navy personnel and other civilians from the Defense Communications Detachment Okinawa gathered outside of the well known station. They listened to Commanding Officer CDR C.A. Williams give a final speech to all the service members, and both Japanese and American civilian workers that served throughout the fifty three year history of the Naval Security Group here on Okinawa.

Although the official closing ceremony took place on September 10 of last year, a small crew from NSGA Hanza stayed behind to complete the transition of the facility to civilian control under contract by the United States Department of Defense. Commander Williams spoke of having "mixed feelings" over his departure. "I feel a sense of loss in the closing of the final chapter of a great command, but I also feel joy over having served two years in the best job I will ever have," he said. Commander Williams once again spoke about the "Dragon of Change," referring to a Chinese proverb he quoted during his speech during last year's official closing ceremony. "If you ignore it (change) or try to control it, the dragon will eat you. But if you can ride the dragon you will prosper."

Other sailors expressed the same emotions about leaving NSGA Hanza and moving on to other duties. I really enjoyed it here, and I'll be sorry to leave," explained CTMI Robinson, who will be getting ready for retirement. "It was exciting, but it was also very hard work during these last final months," she added. CTO2 Rogers, who was stationed here for the last three years said, "I have family here. My parents live here, so I don't want to leave. I also went to high school here, so I'm going to miss it." Rogers also mentioned the hard work and dedication everyone put into preparing for their departure. "Everything had to be removed and put away, down to the smallest item. We worked a lot of hours," said Rogers.

According to Commander Williams and Dan Ritchie, who will be supervising the facility under government contract, the transition went very smooth. The site, which will now be known as the "United States Communications Station Sobe," will be providing secure communications for the United States Military, as an integral part of the United States' world wide communications network. "We look forward to our job here, and also in becoming a part of the Yomitan community. We wish to continue participating in some of the community projects that the NSGA Hanza had done," said Ritchie.

Executive Officer CDR Mark F. Landers also commented on the fine job everyone did to make the transfer of the facility to civilian hands run very efficiently. "We gave a lot of software to the DOD schools, instead of destroying it. We also sent a lot of good "quality of life" items over to South Korea to be used by the U.S. Military," mentioned Commander Landers. The Army has also been very good to us. Colonel Bishop and everyone over at Torii Station has been wonderful hosts to us the whole time. I am going to miss the people and the island a lot," added Landers.

Although the final transition at Hanza was completed quietly, the facility at one time was the scene of a major problem. Media poured in on April 1, 1996 while Shoichi Chibana, along with family and friends, protested for the return of his land. Usually, the Japanese Government guarantees the use of land to the United States Military through leases with private land owners. In Chibana's case however, he refused to re-sign his lease, and Governor Ota also refused to use his legal power to sign for him. The situation lead to more anti-base sentiment among Okinawans, putting NSGA Hanza on the front page news.

In response, the United States Military erected a huge fence around the entire installation, which gave the area its nickname of the "elephant cage".

Since that time, the sailors from NSGA Hanza have developed a much better relationship with the Yomitan Village Government through better community relations.

On Monday morning, Commander Williams said to everyone on hand, "It is now time for us to embrace change and go forward." Change will inevitably occur again down the road.

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