CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan --
It was a swelteringly hot day in Okinawa as a baseball game was being played. Takeshi Tsuhako was 17, standing on first base after hitting a single. The pitcher threw to first base in an attempt to catch him off the bag, and the baseball made contact with his right rib cage, cracking it as he slid into the base. As searing pain rushed through his chest, Takeshi was taken away by emergency services and was in awe of how fast and effectively they responded to the call and treated him. From that very moment, he knew he wanted to dedicate his career to ensuring others’ safety and saving lives.
For 12 years, Tsuhako has served as a firefighter with Marine Corps Installations Pacific Fire and Emergency Services. In January 2021, he was promoted to the battalion training chief and is responsible for scheduling, conducting and recording all of the department’s training.
“Fire and emergency services procedures are constantly improving and changing,” said Tsuhako, a native of Yonabaru, Okinawa, Japan. “We always find new ways to train and adapt. Our training and education does not stop until we retire.”
On a daily basis, Tsuhako is responsible for regulating effective training that ensures all station personnel conduct emergency and nonemergency operations in a safe, effective and efficient manner. In addition to this, he trains new firefighting personnel and evaluates each engine company’s fire suppression capability and their ability to maintain and improve their performance on a quarterly basis.
“Continuing education, training, professional development, and self-directed study are the most important things I teach my new firefighters,” said Tsuhako. “The initial training is a grueling five-week course in which new firefighters learn the basics of fire and emergency services and earn their place at the station.”
Every year, the Marine Corps asks for nominations of the best and brightest in the fire service and Tsuhako was the recipient of the 2020 U.S. Marine Corps Civilian Firefighter of the Year. He received the award prior to his promotion to battalion training chief, and was originally nominated due to his exceptional leadership, extensive knowledge and selfless dedication to duty and helping others.
“Takeshi is humble in his demeanor, but masterful in the work that he accomplishes,” said Timothy Johnson, the deputy chief with MCIPAC F&ES. “When others are resting, he is diligently working for the good of the department.”
Johnson explained that Tsuhako additionally stands out from other firefighters as a leader by selflessly helping junior firefighters after duty hours to obtain and hone their required skills.
He explained that his dedication to his career not only benefits the individual firefighters, but enhances the department's capabilities and improves the services MCIPAC F&ES provides.
“I want to continue to learn and lead by example,” said Tsuhako. “Along with the rest of F&ES, I will continue to provide the highest quality service to Marine Corps Installations, other Department of Defense communities in Okinawa, and neighboring local communities.”