MISAWA, Japan – In a little corner of northern Japan, you will find the snowiest U.S. naval base in the world. Surrounded by the country roads and hills of Aomori prefecture, you would think there is not a whole lot to do in Misawa. But many of the military members stationed at Misawa Air Base, will assure you otherwise.
One such sailor, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samantha Rubin, a Suffern, N.Y., native, joined the Misawa Ice Hockey Club, a local team that plays in the Japan Aomori-ken Amateur Ice Hockey League.
Rubin not only is one of the few Americans on the team, but also is the only woman.
"I'm accustomed to being the only female player on the hockey teams I've joined," she said. "At first, I kind of get that stigma that I'm just a girl, but I don't play the fragile girl card. If I get knocked down, I get back up and keep playing."
Rubin began playing street and roller hockey at age 6, which eventually emboldened her to try out for an ice hockey team during her senior year of high school. She’s been playing ice hockey ever since.
After joining the Navy in 2010, she reported to Navy Information Operations Command Misawa in December 2011. It took less than a month for her to become a member of the Misawa Hockey Club, and she’s been an avid player and spokeswoman for the team ever since.
"Sami is an important player on our team," said teammate Daisuke Sato. "She has a big heart, and she's good.”
Since a young age, Rubin said, she has always been fascinated with hockey. She recalled her earliest memory of attending a game.
“When I was very young, my family went to a National Hockey League game, and we watched the New York Rangers play," she said. "I noticed that the players were taking the time to stop, high-five their fans and sign autographs on their breaks, which showed me that they’re really down-to-earth people. This gave me the idea that I wanted to be a good role model like that, and it helped me decide that this is what I’d like to do.”
Since those early years, Rubin has consistently made this dream a reality, even while on active duty in the Navy. In addition to her success on the ice, she has succeeded in her naval career. In December, she was named her command’s 2013 Junior Sailor of the Year.
"Petty Officer Rubin is an invaluable member of our NIOC Misawa team," said Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel Nash, originally from The Woodlands, Texas, the NIOC Misawa 0perations department’s leading chief petty officer. "Much like she leads her team on the ice, Petty Officer Rubin comes to work every day with that same grit and tenacity that makes her stand out amongst an already stellar group of sailors. We're proud of what she's achieved here in Misawa, and certainly consider her our MVP."
Rubin said she always will appreciate the experiences and opportunities she’s had here, both personally and professionally, and will carry them with her throughout her burgeoning naval career. Later this year, the cryptologic technician transfers to Navy Information Operations Command Maryland.
"Not everyone can say they played their favorite sport in another country with the local community," Rubin said. "I think I will always cherish the camaraderie I shared with my teammates on the Misawa Ice Hockey Club. They have become my family while forward deployed to Misawa, and I am honored to not only call them my teammates, but consider them my close friends as well."