Introduction Hi

It's hard to find jobs in Okinawa...

Joe Drake

New member
Hello everyone,

My name is Joe, I first came to Okinawa in August of 1998 as a Marine stationed at Camp Hansen, I stayed there for 3 years leaving in September of 2001, just to find myself back here and stationed at MCAS Futenma in June of 2002. I stayed that time until August of 2008... The Stateside Marine Corps didn't agree with me so in October of 2009 I got out. I ended up going to WyoTech in PA for a year and got an Associates in Business Management & Automotive Technology. After graduation I took a job as a Logistics Supervisor for Honeywell (Ended up KBR) and spent 8 years doing that until this past September. After 8 years in the same job I just quit and came home to be with my family. I'm married to an Okinawan Girl and we have 2 teenage daughters. Both girls attend schools in Naha.

I am finding the job market here in Okinawa kinda hard to penetrate at the moment, being jobless for almost 3 months is starting to wear on me. Despite being here so many years and being married to a local and having two half kids, I have never learned much Japanese, but I love this place and will keep on fighting.

I really like the idea of this forum, it has a more personal feel than a Facebook or Instagram page.

Thanks for reading, I'm sure I'll be active here, my family is normally out doing something all the time so I will have plenty of photos and stories to share. I look forward to interacting with the community.
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Okinawa.Org Staff
Okinawa.Org Staff
Official Account
Welcome, @Joe Drake!

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–Okinawa.Org Family


Okinawa.Org Staff
@Joe Drake,

There are so many levels that I can relate with you on between our life adventures.

While I didn't serve as long as you in Okinawa, I did settle down here with my Okinawan wife (@Snow) and our two children. We've since expanded to a dog (@Marron) and two cats now too.

My first job here I was working for $7.35 an hour when the yen rate was 74 yen to the dollar—without base access and completely on the Japanese economy. The struggle was real. But as it got better for me over time, it should as well for you.

I'm also a Naha resident, but hope to move farther away to a quieter area at some point.

As far as Japanese goes, I have a very limited ability to speak it, but understanding is somewhat alright (at least better than nothing). I can also read, recognize and write hiragana, katakana and some kanji.

A fun word game we have here is in the Let's Play Shiritori! thread. By participating, you'll surely expand your vocabulary; play verbally with your kids too.

Look forward to seeing where Okinawa takes you!🌞


Okinawa.Org Staff
Hello Joe! Welcome back to Okinawa! :D
I know this might sound weird but do your daughters' names start with M and R??
I have a 16 year old daughter and her best friend's dad just came back from the states after 8 years!
She also has a teenage sister too:)


Okinawa.Org Staff
I am finding the job market here in Okinawa kinda hard to penetrate at the moment
I was pondering about this today, while trying to get some work done, and thought about a personal experience of mine when I first came back to Okinawa and found it hard to get work as well.

I eventually landed a server position at the Seaman's Club down by the airport and took it at $7.35 an hour because work is work and money is money.

They often hire servers and helpers at, I believe US federal minimum wage, as well as tip out for the day.

It's something to look into, at least. If you do end up getting hired, the Seaman's Club does have the ability to sponsor a base access ID card, with full privilege (besides postal), the DD Form 2765.

After about 4 months of working there and figuring that bit of information out through my own research online as SOFA wasn't an option, I requested an ID card and the Director sat on it for about a month. Later on, I asked again and was kind of given the impression that it wasn't going to happen, and, it never came to fruition.

However, management has changed since then and it might now be a possibility. They used to post openings in Japan Update, as the previous owner was a regular of theirs, but I haven't seen the paper in a while. It might be worth giving them a call at 098-857-1753, asking for the Director, and seeing if anything is available.

There are a lot of networking options, but you just have to put your foot in the door here first, as well as sometimes reduce your worth in order to get to the position in life that you want here. A lot of information about job openings and how to get in was also passed along to me by customers while I was working there too.

I've also known many that went from the Seaman's Club to SOFA getting jobs under 18 FSS, MCCS and even GS jobs.

But, back to me, since the $7.35 I was working for was so bad on the Japanese economy at the time, I just couldn't do it. Though the yen rate is much better now and it could be an option that if I were in the same position again, I'd be much happier because it's a more than livable wage in Okinawa (when you include the tips) if you budget correctly.

One thing, while working there is that I went to ProStaff, filled out an application, and was later interviewed at the Shoppette (now called the Express) on Camp Kinser. I was hired, but unfortunately, AAFES was unable to process my pass to work for whatever reason. It was only a setback.

OTS ProStaff

Central  OTS ProStaff

OTS ProStaff is a temporary staffing employment agency with experts that attempt to place you in a job that you will excel at while in Okinawa.
But, while I was on base for my interview, I found out more about Exchange New Car Sales (now called MilitaryAuto Source) which is a car selling program on base. They typically hire people with little to no experience in sales as anyone can be trained.

At MAS, if it's still the same, you start with a base salary for 3 months which is considered training pay. It's something low like $1500/mo for the 60-hour workweeks you'll put in. Fortunately for me, I was able to negotiate up to I believe $2000 since I had a family. The fourth-month paycheck is your combined commissions earned in the first three months, which was a 5 figure check for me. The fifth month is the commissions made in the fourth, which was also another 5 figure check, and so on. There were some low mid-four checks that I got, but quarterly bonuses made up for that.

I knew the money was great and for whatever reason, I just had the ability to sell. But, I knew it wasn't my passion nor what I wanted to do.

Do you know what I did though? During my training months, and sometimes thereafter, with SOFA status, I was networking with contractors the entire time on the job as you set up where they come and eat most of the time. Also, I'd use my base access to hop around and see different opportunities on my little time off.

I eventually bumped into someone at one point that I remembered when I turned in my gas mask after leaving the Corps. I kept nudging him, secretly, if there were any openings. A few months later, there was.

The Area Director, the person I bumped into, a manager at the time that I continually pestered, and I sat down on base during my break for an interview. And, I got the job.

It was another SOFA job doing hard contracting in a hot warehouse. But, it had great pay and benefits over 60-80 hour work weeks to make those mid-high 4/low 5 figure checks as I had time to go to school on my GI Bill too and nearly make, from the housing, what I was when I was selling cars.

If I recollect, my pay was cut in half from selling, but I was getting $17 an hour (little did I know about negotiations and found out that one of my peers was getting $22 an hour) and was much happier with a steady 5 day, 40-hour workweek from 0730-1600 as opposed to 0900-1800 with only Sunday off (which I'd still sometimes work to get that missing sale).

I'm sure you've been told this about Okinawa before, but, you just need your foot in the door, any door, and opportunities to get where you want to be in life will jump at you left and right with the right cards played.

Good luck! :)

If you need any other help, feel free to start a conversation with me on here.
Joe Drake

Joe Drake

New member
Thanks for all that information! It surely helps. Things are moving in a good direction for me now. I got accepted into Liberty University's Online BS in Accounting program today, so going to use up some more GI Bill, and such a coincidence I got a call from one of the managers at MAS today. So hopefully things start moving a bit now!


Okinawa.Org Staff
Thanks for all that information! It surely helps. Things are moving in a good direction for me now. I got accepted into Liberty University's Online BS in Accounting program today, so going to use up some more GI Bill, and such a coincidence I got a call from one of the managers at MAS today. So hopefully things start moving a bit now!
You really ought to look into going to UMUC/UMGC (University of Maryland University College - Global Campus) on base. If you don't have base access, they only charge $5 per semester hour, so $15 in order to get that 1 face-to-face class needed for the full the full BAH/MHA rate and then the other class you can either take online or face-to-face as well, paying an additional $15 for that pass.

There are changes that I've heard of about housing, but I cannot confirm or deny at this time. You will need to talk to an academic advisor on base to confirm what I'm about to say.

All I know is that I was paid BAH at the E-5 rate with dependents while attending UMUC for my bachelor's and completion of my MBA, and in order to do that, I took 3-4 classes a semester to get the most of my GI Bill.

At that time, they paid the full rate for the school's HQ zip code in Adelphi, MD, which would be $2535/mo at today's current rate (zip: 20783).

It now looks like they pay all foreign schools the same rate of $1789/mo
Source: | Veterans Affairs (and by little birdies that told me of possible changes)

Compare that to solely distance courses and receiving half the national average of BAH/MHA of $894.50/mo.
Source: Determining BAH

If money is of concern, and you want a good education, I would highly recommend comparing the two schools.

I have a little bias as I have a BS and MBA from UMUC/UMGC, so I would recommend it over online-only, and that school. There are three reasons for this: 1) you're getting a good education, 2) you're getting more in housing, and 3) if you go face-to-face on base, you will be surrounded by people in your same situation as well as others that have been there and are willing to help you network in a job you want.

An example of this: One of my friends I met in my MBA cohort was hired as the low man on the totem pole. Within a year and a half or so, he was then made the regional director at 2-3x the pay. He would've never had that opportunity had he not attended school on base and been in the right place, or class rather, at the right time.

Either way, I wish you luck! :)

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