A half century after he donned an Air Force uniform for the first time, Lawrence Kalahiki was recognized for 50 years of government service at an awards ceremony at Madigan Army Medical Center recently. After serving 26 years in the Air Force, Kalahiki went on to serve 24 more years as a civil servant and is still serving.
Kalahiki enlisted in the Air Force in 1967 in the propulsion system management field. It was his dream to work on jet engines.
“Enlisting in the Air Force was the best way to fulfill that dream,” Kalahiki said.
Through the years, Kalahiki’s responsibilities in the Air Force started to shift. He found himself turning wrenches less as he transitioned into a more managerial position.
“I’m a mechanic at heart but it was good to learn all of the fields, logistics and supplies,” he said. “They are important as well.”
Kalahiki officially retired from the Air Force as a senior master sergeant August 1993, but before his official retirement, he received a job offer from Okinawa’s Child Development Center as a program technical specialist — four months early. He was one of two individuals in Okinawa who were given a waiver to start working before his official retirement date.
Working at the CDC was a nice change of pace for a recently retired Kalahiki.
“How can you complain?” he said. “I got to work eight hours a day, crawling on my hands and knees with kids.”
Later he would transfer to the transportation department at Okinawa’s Department of Defense Education Activity School.
“I would see the children that were in my room at the Child Development Center years later in the school and that was neat,” Kalahiki said.
Each year, Kalahiki would visit the schools in his district to assess their supply, equipment and property programs. Locations included Korea, Guam and Japan — totaling 45 schools.
He appreciated the opportunity to travel around the Pacific as part of his job. “I enjoyed going TDY and meeting people. My wife said our life was like the movie ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles,’” Kalahiki said.
In 2008, Kalahiki and family would relocate again, this time to the continental U.S., for he accepted a job at Madigan.
Loretha Widger, an equipment manager at Madigan who worked with Kalahiki for 13 years, said, “(He) is very a passionate, dedicated and hard-working individual and there are a select few that are able and willing to work for the government for this long.”
Today, Kalahiki works in Madigan’s Property Management Branch as a property book officer and is responsible for tracking 245 hand receipts totaling 55,000 pieces of equipment, worth $214 million.
Even though his job is not patient-care related, he still makes a difference in the care that is provided at Madigan. As part of the equipment management branch, Kalahiki plays a crucial role in equipment purchases.
“The department has to request to purchase the equipment, then it comes to me because I’m the PBO and after I review it, I forward it onto maintenance and contracting for approval,” he said. “It’s interesting seeing all of the new equipment coming in.”
Retirement is unavoidable but, for now, Kalahiki doesn’t plan on slowing down just yet. He is constantly on the move in the logistics wing of Madigan, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If you like what you’re doing and you get to meet interesting people, it’s easy to work in that area,” Kalahiki said. “That’s what I have had for the past 50 years.”