☷Army air traffic controller guides community closer with sports
U.S. Army ( By Press Release office)
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Kekua Aumua , right , a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Kastner Airfield , shakes hands with a coach from the Sagamihara Young Giants baseball team at Camp Zama , Japan . Aumua helped organize the team , which his two children were on , so American dependents could play the sport with Japanese youth . Aumua often volunteers to coach youth sports as part of his efforts to bring the community closer . CAMP ZAMA , Japan – Athletic activities dominated much of Kekua Aumua’s childhood growing up on the North Shore of Oahu . He played various sports and attended Kahuku High School , where he was a running back for its powerhouse football team known for producing several NFL players . Aumua recalled how sports helped bond the small Hawaiian community together . He eventually brought that spirit to Camp Zama , where he often volunteers to coach youth sports . Children can learn many lessons from playing a sport , said Aumua , a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Kastner Airfield here . The successes and failures found in competition and how a person handles them is good for youth to experience , he said . “It’s not necessarily about sports; it’s about the community , ” Aumua , 43 , said of why he volunteers . “Whatever community you are a part of , you should try to make it better . ” Scared straight After he graduated from high school in 1997 , Aumua left the beach countryside to play football and baseball for Los Angeles Harbor College . During that time , racial violence plagued the city and Aumua was not immune as it crept into his life . One day while playing basketball with friends who were also of Polynesian descent , some men unknown to him began to fire bullets toward them . As the unprovoked shooting unfolded , one of Aumua’s friends was shot on the court , and another was shot as he tried to flee . “It wasn’t a one - off thing . It happened a lot , ” Aumua said of the shootings . “Luckily , I was never caught up in any of it , but seeing it happen to other people that I knew , it was definitely an eye - opener that scared you straight . ” The violence put things into perspective for Aumua and following his first year in college , he decided that living in L . A . was not for him and he returned to Hawaii . Kekua Aumua , right , when he was a running back for Los Angeles Harbor College . Aumua , who is now a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Camp Zama , Japan , frequently shares his knowledge of sports with local youth . Kekua Aumua when he served in the Army as an air traffic control operator in Bosnia . Aumua stayed in the profession as an Army civilian and is now a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Camp Zama , Japan . While he pondered his next move , his brother chose to serve in the Army . “I never really thought about it until he joined , ” Aumua said . As he had done to get past defenders on the football field , Aumua sidestepped and turned his life in another direction . He became part of another community – the Army – as an air traffic control operator and served for six years . His first and only duty station was Wheeler Army Airfield , located along Kamehameha Highway about an hour from his old stomping grounds . Aumua , who later earned his bachelor’s degree using the G . I . Bill , said he appreciated how the Army gave him a stronger purpose and allowed him to conduct unique missions all over the world . He supported numerous Special Forces operations and traveled to Afghanistan , Bosnia , the Philippines and Thailand as part of his job . Once his enlistment was done , Aumua was able to transfer his skills into a civilian role at Wheeler , where he stayed until he relocated to Camp Zama in 2018 . From their windowed perch inside the Kastner air control tower , which offers a 360 - degree vista of mountains to the west and Tokyo skyscrapers to the east , Aumua and his team have perhaps the best view in the area . While UH - 60 Black Hawk helicopters normally buzz around the airfield , Aumua sometimes coordinates to have Japanese military rotary aircraft land there . He also works with local governments to ensure buildings being constructed do not affect their airspace . “I like the professional aspect of it , ” Aumua said about his role . “There are so many rules and regulations you have to know , and it changes all the time . It keeps you on your game . ” Kekua Aumua , a supervisory air traffic control specialist , works inside the Kastner Airfield tower at Camp Zama , Japan , May 2 , 2022 . Aumua served in the Army as an air traffic control operator and has stayed in the profession as an Army civilian . As an Army civilian , he said he has assisted with visits from high - profile dignitaries , such as then - President Barack Obama in Hawaii and then - Vice President Mike Pence in Japan . But his greatest career accomplishment , he said , was being able to train and influence uniformed air traffic controllers . While at Wheeler , he helped over 50 Soldiers receive a civilian certification from the Federal Aviation Administration . “Giving them the opportunity to do that , and if they choose to get out and get a [civilian] job to take care of their families , is pretty cool to me , ” he said . “But it also made a more capable fighting force that is more proficient , tactically and technically . ” Loyd Black II , chief of the Kastner air control tower , has known Aumua since 2005 when both started their careers at Wheeler . He described Aumua as an “outstanding employee” that the Army needs to hold on to . “He often does work outside his normal duties and is a great teammate , ” Black said . “Over the years he has demonstrated that he is not only a great controller , but a good friend . ” Kekua Aumua , left , a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Camp Zama , Japan , poses for a photo with his family following a basketball game . Aumua often volunteers to coach youth sports as part of his efforts to help the community . Kekua Aumua , left , a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Camp Zama , Japan , and his daughter , Kierstyn , take a photo with Crystl Bustos , an Olympian softball player who won two gold medals and a silver medal , after she conducted a coaching session on hitting . Respect through sports Aumua and his wife , Siapotaga ' i , chose to move to Japan to give their two children , who both attend Zama Middle High School , a broader perspective of the world outside of Hawaii . His daughter , Kierstyn , who is in the 10th grade , plays shortstop on the boy’s baseball team after she received permission from the school to make the switch from softball . And his son , Kekua - kaninauali ' i , an eighth grader who is already 6 feet , 3 inches tall and 250 pounds , is looking to join the football team next season . Both of them have also played for the Sagamihara Young Giants , a local youth baseball club similar to Little League . Aumua helped organize the team to provide American youth a chance to play with Japanese teammates . “Aumua is a great ambassador for [U . S . Army Garrison Japan] , ” Black said . “He volunteers to coach and mentor not only U . S . dependents , but does the same for our Japanese partners’ youth . ” Before the pandemic , Aumua sometimes held practice on the installation and afterward he would take the players to the food court so they could interact . “It’s crazy to see that the language barrier is there , ” Aumua said , “but they can still have a good time through baseball . ” As a coach , Aumua said his philosophy is a bit different from how he played . The expectations were too high for him and others , he said , which made the games not as much fun . Instead , he hopes to encourage and lift up a player when they need it . But he still finds the competitiveness in sports important for players to understand that it can also teach them to support their teammates . “Make sure you’re giving 100% , because if you’re not , your teammates have to pick up your slack , ” he said . “But also … if you’re not giving 100% , then why should they give 100% ” Kekua Aumua , right , a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Camp Zama , Japan , poses for a photo with Jocelyn Alo , a softball player at Oklahoma University who recently broke the NCAA record for career home runs . Aumua previously coached Alo when she was younger , and he continues to share his knowledge of sports with local youth . Kekua Aumua , center , a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Camp Zama , Japan , poses for a photo with the Zama Middle High School baseball team . Aumua often volunteers to coach youth sports as part of his efforts to help the community . Kekua Aumua , left , a supervisory air traffic control specialist at Kastner Airfield , serves as an umpire for a youth softball game . Aumua often volunteers to assist youth sports as part of his efforts to help the community . He shares the same outlook for the community as a whole . His family typically volunteers with sporting events , but also for cleanups , student activities and other community efforts when they have free time . “It’s very important to me that my family contributes to the community positively , ” he said . “Everybody makes mistakes , but as long as you are mostly a positive member of the community – I think that’s a mandatory thing in my family , at least . ” Family and respect are values that were ingrained into him as a child . As a Hawaiian and Samoan , Aumua , whose first name is Kekuakaninaualli but who goes by Kekua for short , said he appreciated how his island community always looked out for each other . “For me , that’s what endears Hawaii to me , ” he said . “There are so many similar , like - minded people that have the same values and still uphold them and teach them . ” While living in Japan , Aumua said he has noticed that the culture here can often parallel his own: honoring one’s family , helping the next generation and treating everybody with respect . It all ties in with his lifelong motto , and sports is just one way of tackling it . “Try to make the community better , ” he said , “wherever you decide to put down roots . ” Related links: Asian Pacific Americans in the U . S . Army U . S . Army Garrison Japan news USAG Japan official website
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