2017 Distinguished Alumni Award: James Hirai

James Hirai
BEd in elementary education, 1974, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

For 31 years, James (Jim) Hirai served in the U.S. Army in a range of leadership positions.  As the special assistant to the Commander, Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan, he worked in the Office of Security Cooperation – Afghanistan leading the external support to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and National Army.

His experience in the Asia-Pacific region includes serving as commander of U.S. Army Alaska; chief of staff of U.S. Army Pacific; commander of the U. S. Army Garrison, Hawaii; commander of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 25th Infantry Division (Light); and two tours on the Commander U.S. Pacific Command staff. He also served as Deputy Commandant, U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and six years with Army Rangers. His career included tours with Army units in Washington, Texas, Kentucky, and Germany as an infantryman in Air Assault, Airborne Ranger, Mechanized and Light units. His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit fifth award, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge and the Ranger Tab.

In 2006 Hirai joined the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) as deputy director. DKI APCSS is a Department of Defense executive education center that conducts in-residence and outreach activities designed to enhance effective and accountable security sector governance in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Hirai supports organizations that perpetuate the legacy of Japanese-American World War II veterans and he promotes the work of the Pan-Pacific American Leaders and Mentors. He received his BEd from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and was a Distinguished Military Graduate from the Army ROTC program. He earned a master’s degree in education from Troy State University and is a graduate of many military courses including the Infantry Officers Basic and Advanced Courses, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College.

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University of Hawai‘i Alumni