Spotlight: Oana Ivanoff

Single Marines Program

employee spotlight: oana ivanoff

Aaron Pylinski | Community Writer

Keeping our fighting men and women ready for the task of defending our democracy is no easy feat. Keeping them active and engaged during their off time is yet another story and Marine Lounge Manager, Oana Ivanoff, is top notch in that job.

Starting in an NF01 position at the IronWorks Gym, Oana has moved her way into the lead position for the MCCS Iwakuni Single Marine Program’s (SMP) Marine Lounge. Oana paid her dues working the 3 AM morning shift at the IronWorks gym almost 10 years ago. Now she is the lead on volunteer work for SMP and keeps those who come through the doors of the lounge comfortable and entertained.

The typical humble leader, Oana prefers to shy away from the focus of her endeavors and instead enjoys the sense of accomplishment she gets from keeping the servicemembers actively engaged and always informed.

We did manage to steal a few minutes of her time and see what motivates her to work in the Single Marine Program.

What is your position at MCCS and how did you come to work here?

My position right now is the Marine Lounge Manager. I started working for MCCS back in 2005. I started as an NF01 at the IronWorks gym. I had the early morning shift, where I worked at 3 AM for a few years, then I was the complex manager at the gym, and then I applied for the position in the Marine Lounge which used to be upstairs in the Crossroads at the time.

Working with single and unaccompanied servicemembers is no easy task, what drives you to do the work that you do?

I love what I do. I love my job. I know that I can make a difference every single day by making sure the Marine Lounge is a friendly and relaxing environment for our servicemembers. I love helping them out. That's the best part of my job.

How do you feel the work that you do at SMP impacts the community?

What I do is obviously helping our servicemembers. When they volunteer with SMP they get a Letter of Appreciation for the time that they put in. They also get to explore the area off base, learn about Japanese cultures and traditions, and make new friends. Maybe if the servicemembers are lucky, they'll pick up on some Japanese words, too. As for the Japanese community, we always try to build new relationships wherever we go.

What have been some of your greatest accomplishments working with the Single Marine Program?

When I started the volunteer events, I started out only doing one or two events a year and now I have up to 35 volunteer events every year. I started with a couple hundred volunteer hours a year and we have over 6,000 hours a year. In 2015 we had about 4,000 volunteer hours and in 2016 we had over 5,000 hours. Hopefully this year we’ll have over 7,000 volunteer hours and continue our steady growth. Right now, we have about 600 volunteers in the Single Marine Program.

What is the biggest reward working with single and unaccompanied servicemembers?

The simple fact that I can walk down the street and a servicemember can stop me and ask if I can help them find this person or that person. The other day I came to work, I parked my car, and a servicemember asked me by name if I could help him find something on base and I was able to give him a phone number. To be able to be recognized by servicemembers as a resource for information and know that I can point them in the right direction, that's a great accomplishment. I’m glad I can be a trusted source.

If you could pick one activity so far from the year that was your favorite, what would it be?

It's very difficult to pick one because every single event that I do, especially the ones off station, are all amazing in one way or another. But the most successful event we have every year it is the nursing home volunteer event. Every year we have a picnic at the Kintai area by the water fountain and 110 residents from the nursing home come out. We have food, fun, and a small talent show. They seem to like it and they perform a skit and so do the volunteers. They have their own little act. That’s a huge one. There is a little bit of a language barrier, but the language we speak is to have fun.

What are some challenges you’ve faced working in the Single Marine Program?

Sometimes planning events takes longer than I expect. Getting more people involved and continuing to grow can be a challenge, but if it wasn’t challenging it wouldn’t be work. The single and unaccompanied servicemembers are a great group of people, so I always want to try harder to get more of them involved in activities and coming to the Marine Lounge.

What do you like to do with your free time?

I love to listen to music, like European style techno. I like to tour around in my automobile, too. I also like to play with my babies, my dogs; they are Maltese.

What goals for the Single Marine Program do you have for the summer?

The goal is to grow in our volunteer opportunities to have more diverse opportunities and offer them on different days of the week. Not everyone has the same Monday through Friday, eight to five schedule. So that's one way for the program to grow and have more chances for more servicemembers to get out and volunteer around the community.