PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM – As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to an end, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Pacific Assistant Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Brent Uyehara credits his Hawaii roots for the vast cultural exposure throughout his life and military career.
"When you grow up in a place like Hawaii, you have so much diversity around you and it becomes embedded in who you are," said Uyehara. "Things have changed a little from my childhood, but for the most part everyone in Hawaii still respects and adopts each other’s cultures, languages and traditions."
Uyehara is a native of Honolulu, Hawaii and a proud graduate of Kalani High School. He attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa where he earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree. He was later accepted into the Navy Officer Candidate School program in Florida where he was commissioned as an Ensign. Uyehara then obtained his Master of Science in Construction Management from the University of Washington.
The month of May is set aside every year to honor the heritage contributions of the Asian Pacific and American people. Uyehara said this year's theme "Unite Our Voices by Speaking Together" has made him reflect on how his Japanese and Okinawan ethnic background allowed him to easily connect with people while on his military tours.
"Here at NAVFAC Pacific, I do have an advantage of connecting with folks on a personal level because I blend into the ethnic landscape," said Uyehara. "Wherever the Navy sends me, I embrace the change around me and connect with the people."
Uyehara’s operational tours include locations in Kuwait, Iraq, and Ghana. His non-operational tours include duty stations in Washington, California and South Korea.
"I’ve had many memorable moments, but the best tour was in South Korea as the Public Works Officer," said Uyehara. "Being stationed overseas, immersed into the Korean culture and the level of responsibility I was given as a junior officer was awesome."
Since being stationed back in Hawaii beginning last year, Uyehara and his family has taken part in various Hawaii traditions that he remembered doing as a child, such as Japanese mochi pounding, playing the taiko drums and indulging in all of the local foods.
On his free time, Uyehara enjoys spending time with his children, going to the beach, riding bicycles, running at the park and going on hikes. He also enjoys cooking and baking and will take on any opportunity to try a new recipe. He believes if he did not join the Navy, he most likely would have become a chef.
"I encourage others to push the limits of your position description," said Uyehara. "It’s very easy to get comfortable, but here in Hawaii being so close to the public works department, facilities engineering command, U.S. Pacific Fleet Command, U.S. Pacific Command, along with other organizations, there are so many opportunities to learn what other communities are doing. Take on opportunities and challenges because I found that it made me a better officer, person and a stronger asset to the Navy and to NAVFAC."