Curtis Vana looks back at a Black Hawk helicopter.

Serving our country and our company

by Donica Kaneshiro | Nov. 11, 2020

Hawaiian Electric has a long legacy of community giving and volunteerism.

Last year, 4,700 volunteers in the Hawaiian Electric ohana spent 12,189 hours serving in neighborhoods across our service territories. (Read more about community giving in the Sustainability Report.)

But some employees take this spirit of giving one step further, giving up their time to help keep us safe by enlisting in the Reserves or the National Guard. Since 2019, 20 employees have served our country in military endeavors.

It’s a win-win situation: employees like acting Transmission and Distribution Superintendent Curtis Vana and Customer Energy Resources Manager Ian Morikawa get time off to fulfill their commitment; our company benefits as employees leverage the skills they gain in service when they are back on the job.

“I enlisted in the Guard eight years ago. I saw this as my best option to serve my country and my local community on a part-time basis,” said Vana, who flies Black Hawk helicopters in the Hawaii National Guard.

Aviator Morikawa enlisted in the Navy Reserves upon returning to Hawaii after a 10-year career in the Navy.

“I really learn just as much from being a part of the Hawaiian Electric team as being a part of the Navy,” he said. “Just being part of both organizations is fantastic and being able to see different leadership styles and management techniques has really helped me.”

The experience has also built on Vana’s risk management skills.

“Risks are identified and assessed during the mission planning phase. Controlling risks that air crews, and in our case, line crews, will be exposed to throughout their work, will increase the chances of safe and successful job completion,” he said.

Both Morikawa and Vana expressed appreciation that their coworkers have been so supportive of their service.

“I believe this is due to many employees having been in the service themselves or having family and friends that are serving in some capacity,” Vana said. Our company currently has 137 employees who identify as veterans.

The COVID-19 pandemic extended Morikawa’s recent deployment to Bahrain and throughout the Middle East. “It was added time away from family and friends and of course, Hawaiian Electric. But as any good sailor knows, the return date that you’re told at the beginning of deployment is never the actual date you’re standing there on the pier,” he said.

“I’m just so happy and fortunate that my wife, my family, my Hawaiian Electric family were flexible and understanding and we were all able to get through it.”

This Veterans Day, as our nation remembers those who protect our country, we thank all those who are currently serving, have served or have family members in the military.

Donica Kaneshiro is a communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.

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