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Posted 12/14/2016

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By Melissa Buckley


Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni – Several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officers met in Iwakuni recently to hone their leadership skills by learning more about Japan’s history. 

The Soldiers, stationed throughout Japan, gathered on Dec. 5, at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to travel to the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan.

1st Lt. Chris Bartenhagen, Iwakuni Resident Office, project engineer, said Hiroshima was chosen because of its significance during the Pacific Theatre of World War II.

“I think when we learn from the past - whether the events are major or minor and the outcomes be good or bad - then we become more prepared for the future. As a leader it is our job to foresee every possible outcome and then make the determination of the best course of action based on the available information,” Bartenhagen said.

He described standing just feet away from the A-Dome at Hiroshima as surreal.

“Seeing it with my own eyes was a very different experience than reading about it or looking at a photo. After we walked through the museum and observed the artifacts we made our way to Aioi Bridge, the t-shaped bridge was the designated target for the atomic bomb. It really put everything into perspective just how catastrophic the bomb was and just how quickly the world changed at Hiroshima,” Bartenhagen said.

Capt. Sean O’Halloran, Okinawa Area Office project engineer, agreed.

“It is one of those places that you hear about growing up. We had several group discussions and studied the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima leading up to our visit. It was surreal to stand at the site of the bombing. It brought a lot about what I learned from textbooks into perspective,” O’Halloran said.

The staff ride was part of the USACE Japan District Commander’s Officer Professional Development Program. Not only about learning, the trip provided a good opportunity to build comradery amongst the Japan District’s Soldiers.

“It was really nice to get to meet other officers in the district. I think our open discussions will strengthen our abilities to work together from different locations,” O’Halloran said.

Before the Soldiers parted ways they met at Iwakuni’s famous Kintai Bridge for an early morning, motivational run up the mountainside to Iwakuni Castle where they enjoyed a panoramic view of the historic bridge, city and Seto Inland Sea.

USACE; Staff Ride; Iwakuni; Japan; Soldiers; Civilians