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An Interview with NAFA's New Command Master Chief, Command Master Chief, Daniel J. Irwin

08/02/18

Interviewed by MC2 Michael Doan, PAO, NAF Atsugi

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your career?

I am a military brat. My dad was in the Air Force, so we moved all around the world. We eventually landed in Colorado Springs, which I call home. I spent my last 17 years there before joining the Navy, which I joined a little bit late - three days before my 21st birthday.

I started my career here at NAF Atsugi in 1996 with VRC 30 Det. 5. I spent four years there then I transferred to Hawaii working on for two and a half years. I went back to VRC 30 Det. 5 in 2004 for another three years. I made be a recruit division commander. A few years later I went to Lemoore, Calif., to be on the maintenance team of VFA 192. During that tour, as a Senior Chief, I picked up Command Senior Chief and transferred to VFA 41 as to fill that role. I subsequently picked up Master Chief and went from VFA 41 to be the CMC of (Fleet Activities) Okinawa.

I spent a little over two years there then continued on to Singapore working for Admiral Gabrielson at Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC) where I was also the region CMC. Now I’m back here at Atsugi, and glad to be here.

How has the Navy influenced you personally and professionally?

I joined the Navy-probably not on the best of terms. I made a few less than ideal decisions in my younger days and realized I needed a change, so I joined the Navy. Personally, it helped me get focused and gain some direction in my life. I met my wife during my first tour here which was awesome. She’s my foundation and really helped me straighten out. I learned a trade, and I earned a bunch of certifications and civilian sector licenses under my belt. I also got my degrees. Honestly, I think the Navy saved my life.

What are some of your favorite aspects about serving in Japan?

Serving in the Navy here in Japan is amazing, plus they pay for us to live here! The history, making new friends, and building those alliances here in Japan is strategic - and, I don’t mean that in a political sense, but because of what is going on in this area of responsibility (AOR).

We need to be here because of our treaty with Japan and to help provide for the mutual defense of our host nation. It has always been, throughout time, a very challenging environment. We have competitors who are trying to spread their influence here in the region. We are here to protect the sea lanes and to make sure that everybody has the right use the sea lanes as they need.

Being able to be serve in the Forward Deployed Naval Forces as an ambassador to the U.S, and for our Navy is a tremendous privilege. Not to mention the career benefits, where statistics routinely show higher advancement rates for Japan based Sailors. And don’t get me started on all the great food and travel opportunities!

Why is a Sailorss performance here, on and off duty, so important?

It matters. Every time there is an incident in this AOR it the negative light shines on all of us in this uniform. One person can really hinder the relationships we’ve worked so hard to cultivate. For the 99.9 percent of us that get it right, the one person who gets it wrong, can undo all that goodwill.

We had a string of incidents a few years back that eventually led to former president Barack Obama visiting Japan to offer his apologies as well. So, it is that important that we all act accordingly. There is nothing wrong with having a good time, but we need to be mindful of what’s acceptable behavior and look out for our shipmates. One Sailor’s mistake can have far-reaching implications. When I was here before, there was a rash of DUIs, which resulted in the chain of command securing the driving privileges for SOFA status members. You either had to ride a bicycle or walk to work. One or two liberty incidents can force the
hand of leadership to implement restrictions that impact us all.

What are your goals and plans for your tour here and how do you plan to achieve them?

First and foremost, I believe that I am here to what they want to do. I want what’s best for the command, the mission, and families here at Atsugi. I’ve noticed some changes since the departure of CVW 5’s fixed wing assets, but that’s to be expected. I am excited to see what the future brings to Atsugi. I do believe that this place is going to grow because of the strategic value of the runway and land that we have.

I do not believe Atsugi is going away, so I look forward to developing and shaping the future of the installation. My biggest concerns are the Sailors and families. This is a great community. There are a lot of great programs here. I want to make sure we continue those and we build upon what the Sailors and families need.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with Sailors?

My best advice is to do what you are told by responsible authority, maintain your military bearing and conduct, and make the right decisions. I say that as I have made some poor decisions in my life before the Navy. That being said, learn from your mistakes. This isn’t a zero-defect Navy.

To advance, you have to study. You’ve got to work hard and treat people with dignity and respect. We are all human beings whether we are civilians, dependents, MLCs, or Sailors. Everybody is a human being and deserves to be treated as such.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I am honored to be serving as Command Master Chief here at Atsugi because of my history and the roots that I have here. This is my third tour at Atsugi and fourth tour in Japan. I love this place. I grew up here early in my Navy career, so I have a lot of fond memories. It really is an honor and privilege to serve here on the base and I look forward to working with everybody.

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