During the relentless downpour of a typhoon, a man steadily pumps the wheels of his bicycle through the unwelcoming weather conditions. When he arrives at the Camp McTureous fire station, his place of work, his team is stunned. The man gives them a gleaming smile and chuckles as he dismounts his bicycle. For Masami Goya, it was just another 13-mile commute to work.
Goya, a fire captain with Marine Corps Installations Pacific Fire and Emergency Services, has been traveling to and from work the same way since 1990, when he first became a firefighter for Marine Corps Installations Pacific Fire and Emergency Services. With 32 years of service to the department, the 59-year-old fire captain has dedicated his life to being an inspiration to others and an example of what it means to be a leader.
"I believe in leading my crew by example," said Goya. "I don't need to be persuasive or demeaning as a leader. I think it is a more effective learning experience to show my team how things are done, as well as train right alongside them."
Goya's typical duties as a fire captain include leading physical training, conducting safety inspections and inventory, daily training on rescue drills and formal classroom education. In addition to these duties, he must ensure that he and his team are prepared for any unknown response every minute of the day.
"Captain Goya is a supernova of energy, excitement and intensity," said Jerry Bowling, an assistant fire chief with MCIPAC F&ES. "Without fail, he is the first to work, the first to volunteer, the first to conduct training and the last to eat and sleep. I have never heard him use the word 'no' or refuse a difficult assignment. He takes no shortcuts. He leads, holds his team and peers to a standard, and never fails to accomplish what is asked of him."
Bowling explained that being a firefighter is a commitment to three families: personal family, the fire department and the community they serve. He said that Goya appreciates every moment and aspect of his career choice, and it has become his lifestyle and life's dedication.
On his days off, Goya's routine is to wake up daily at 4 a.m. to start a bicycle ride, eat and continue his physical training with a run. With three children and 12 grandchildren, the rest of his time off is often spent with family.
The secret to a happy life is this ... Do the things you love. Just smile, and laugh. Be happy, make friends and never stop working hard."
Goya explained that, in addition to his rigorous training schedule, he participates and endures lengthy races that challenge his physical and mental endurance. He said he has completed a 100-kilometer marathon five times, the Miyakojima triathlon eight times, the Izena Ironman Triathlon nine times, and the Naha and Okinawa marathons 55 times together.
"During the races, my mind is completely blank," explained Goya. "I might have some background music in my ears, but I don't listen to it. The main focus is to keep running, swimming or biking. Whatever I have to do, I do it to reach that finish line."
Outside of physical training, Goya participates in "shishimai," a traditional Japanese performing art in which the performers dance to festival music in a lion's costume. For 41 years, since the age of eighteen, Goya has been participating in this tradition.
Goya explained that various forms of shishimai are practiced throughout Japan. He said that in his hometown, Tsuha, Nakagusuku Village on Okinawa, the art holds over 400 years of tradition.
"My mother's ancestors were believed to develop the village, so when we practice this tradition, we always begin at my family's residence. In the dragon costume, I always operate the front, or the head part with another performer operating the rear," said Goya. "The head can weigh up to 50 pounds. Not only is it something I have always enjoyed doing and a longstanding tradition in my family, but it is more physically challenging than it looks."
Goya makes appearances at festivals across Okinawa around eight times a year performing shishimai. During shishimai, Goya and another performer team up to operate a two-part lion costume and display various, choreographed dance routines accompanied by music. The performance typically lasts around 17 minutes.
Goya explained that the tradition brings good health and safety to the community. He said that the costume he uses was built over a six-month process and is made of an ensemble of fabrics, including horse hair.
"The secret to a happy life is this," he said. "Do the things you love. Just smile, and laugh. Be happy, make friends and never stop working hard."