Working at Okuma: busy beach life

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brooke P. Doyle
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Nestled on serene beach-front property on the East China Sea stands the 18th Force Support Squadron Okuma Recreation Facility.

"There's an idea in people's heads that when people are stationed at Okuma, they're not working hard," said Tech. Sgt. Douglas Caldwell, Okuma independent medical technician.

As one of two IDMTs, Caldwell takes part in the bio-environmental work such as water sampling and food inspections, and primarily treats active duty patients if they get sick or injured while staying at Okuma.

Caldwell must also conquer the fact that Okuma is an hour and a half drive away from the nearest military hospital.

"We don't have a laboratory or an x-ray department," Caldwell said. "That's a disadvantage to being stationed here at a remote location."

Being stationed away from a normal clinic allows Caldwell to practice his skills as an IDMT that he wouldn't normal get to do on a normal base. In the event of an emergency, he would have to use his skills to stabilize the patients longer than normal, but he likes the challenge.

"Some patients are really easy, such as a common cold and some patients I really have to think about, like somebody with cardiac arrest," he said. "It makes you think and it makes you feel good after you help them."

As one of the only nine enlisted members on staff, Caldwell additionally helps set up and tear down stages for events and clean up the aftermath as quickly as possible. He must also provide on call medical coverage, just in case.

"I do draw satisfaction from the guests having a good time here," Caldwell said. "It's a nice experience to have people enjoy things when you've worked so hard to set them up."

On top of the extra duties, the team finds the time to teach English to children from a nearby village twice a week. Caldwell remarked on how he thinks it's awesome to see the children learn English.

"We teach them more every week so we can almost sit down and have a complete conversation with them," he said.

Although a year on the beach may sound fun and relaxing, Okuma is a one year remote tour, which means Caldwell is away from his family.

"My family is currently at Travis Air Force Base," he said. "I miss them a lot and I'm missing a lot of things throughout this year."

To keep himself preoccupied, Caldwell plays guitar, golf and takes time to study for the rank of master sergeant.

"I find hobbies that keep me busy on my spare time to manage the stress while I'm here," Caldwell said. "Everybody's gonna laugh at that, they'll say 'Stress at Okuma?'

A lot goes on behind the scenes at Okuma so guests can enjoy their well-deserved R&R time.

"Both our military and civilian staff members do phenomenal work every day," said Maj. Brooks Wilkerson, Okuma commander. "I am amazed at their constant can-do attitude and their willingness to help each other even if it is not in their job description. Everyone helps set up for events and even shovel sand after typhoons blow through. The entire Okuma staff is all about taking care of our guests ... it's what we do!"