Civilian overseas assignments: A great way to serve

Scott Edge, 525th Electronics Maintenance Squadron director. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Scott Edge, 525th Electronics Maintenance Squadron director. (U.S. Air Force photo)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The thought of serving the country overseas as a civilian had never crossed my mind, never seriously anyway. I had received previous email solicitations for civil service jobs overseas and had always deleted them.

I read an email asking for interest in a job at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and I deleted it. After all, I was settled in my current job at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., where I had been for the last 24 years. I had a nice house, new truck, great family and all the things that keep you rooted in the community where you grew up.

I did leave civil service for a couple of years to chase a dream in private industry; however, 9-11 brought me back out of a sense of service.

Move to Japan, no way.

It was not until my wife emailed telling me about another bad day at work that I undeleted the Kadena email. I replied to my wife with the Kadena email attached and said, “Well let’s just move to Japan.” Little did I know at the time that that email would forever change our lives.

My name is Scott Edge, and I am the squadron director for the 525th Electronics Maintenance Squadron (EMXS) located at Kadena AB, and I love everything about the job I am now in.

Once the initial decision was made to pursue the squadron director job, the fun really began.

While military service members PCS (Permanent Change of Station) throughout their entire careers and are accustomed to deployments and overseas assignments, civilians are totally different.

The to-do list was staggering. I had never even heard of TMO (Traffic Management Office) or most of the other offices I had to deal with. The time getting ready to PCS was one of the most stressful in my life. It made me question, many times, if I had made the right decision.

I am now beginning my first tour extension. It seemed two years just wasn’t enough time to serve on this island paradise.

Things were not always cookies and cream, with my wife transitioning from a stressful 22-year career, and our daughter went from a 75-student private school to an 850-student Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) high school. We also downsized from a 4,000-square-foot house to quarters on base. Our entire lives changed.

After reflecting on it, we realized that all the things we owned actually owned us. While we kept our house for our inevitable return, we soon realized that we didn’t need such a large place with all the upkeep, so we sold it.

My fancy new crew cab truck could never traverse the tiny Okinawan back roads that my older Toyota hatchback does so gracefully. I haven’t cut grass in over two years. Not because I don’t have grass; rather, I choose not to.

The fishing, diving, exploring, traveling and experiencing Okinawan culture and cuisine leave little time for yard maintenance. Many of the things we thought we loved back home now seem like chores.

We now shop on base at the Commissary and Base Exchange instead of Kroger and Walmart. We work, play, shop, eat and socialize side by side with our military neighbors. We truly have a sense of what serving is all about, both the good and the bad.

Being 8,500 miles away from family can be difficult, especially around the holidays, so we made a new family here. The people you work and serve with become family. The Okinawan people become family.

There is a bond that comes with service and sacrifice. These things I would have never experienced had it not been for this great opportunity to serve overseas.

Like all tours, this one will end and we will return to the United States with new outlooks, new respect, and a new sense of service along with amazing memories and many new friends. My family and I love it here.

This is the best civil service job I have experienced in my career. The great morale and excitement from a workforce that love their jobs and want to be here is exhilarating.

This PCS has changed our lives for the better in so many ways; some we may not even yet realize.

The next time you see one of those emails seeking interested parties for an overseas tour don’t be so quick to delete it. As we say in Okinawa, the adventure of a lifetime begins with the first step.

Will you take it?

Of the 11 geographically separated units comprising the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, the 525th EMXS on Kadena AB is the most remote.

Known as the Support Center Pacific (SCP), the 525th EMXS directly supports Asian PACAF (Pacific Air Forces) bases as a second source of depot repair for nine different weapon systems. Although the squadron is small relative to its sister electronics maintenance squadrons, its diversity in mission make it unique.

Within the SCP resides the avionics and generator workloads seen in other electronics maintenance squadrons and here we also produce hydraulic components typically found in commodities maintenance squadrons as well as on-aircraft Time Compliance Technical Order (TCTO) work, which is normally accomplished by aircraft maintenance squadrons.

This diversity is driven by the SCP motto, “You break it in theater; we fix it in theater.”

Founded in 1984 as Detachment 35, its primary mission was to proactively support the PACAF mission by working Mission Impaired Capability Awaiting Parts assets in theater to avoid sending them back to the primary depots some 8,000 miles away.

Performing this work in theater significantly reduced turnaround times of these critical assets by eliminating shipping required to get them back and forth from the United States.

As PACAF leadership recognized the benefits of this arrangement, the SCP expanded into depot operations as a second source to the prime depots.

The SCP has expanded its purview to include repair and modification of 160 products, which generated more than 56,000 production hours in fiscal 2016.

Utilizing five Kadena facilities supporting its customers in diverse areas of engineering support, avionics repair, instrument repair, industrial component repair, metal fabrication, blast and paint, cable manufacture and repair, on-aircraft TCTO execution, fuel tanks, exchangeable production support, and warehouse operations, the SCP executes their mission to “safely and consistently produce high quality products to fill warfighter requirements on time, at best value.”

The SCP truly is the “Maintenance Jewel of the Pacific.”