Japan Engineer District
Published April 8, 2021
30 people are in a room. A man is pointing.

30 students form a joint force environment as they study for the Project Management Professional exam. This marks the first opportunity that those working at Camp Zama, Japan, have had the opportunity to take a professionally mentored study class for the exam since 2018.

CAMP ZAMA, JAPAN – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—Japan District recently hosted the Project Management Professional preparatory course April 6-9 at their headquarters. The course was revitalized after having being last offered in October, 2018.

The 30 empty seats filled up quickly, seeing participants from not only Japan Engineer District, but from U.S. Forces Japan and U.S. Army Japan as well.

“[The class] opens up doors. It makes you more marketable for jobs within the project management world, for both civilian and military members,” said Maj. Bobby Johnson, JED’s deputy commander. “The ultimate goal of this class is to prepare individuals to actually take the PMP exam, and pass it—which traditionally has been a fairly difficult test for people to pass.”

Because of the fast-paced tempo of military operations in the Indo-Pacific region, finding time to take a class like the PMP course as a Soldier can also prove challenging. But Maj. Johnson is hopeful that this class can become an annual one, helping boost both Soldiers and civilians serving in Japan in their quest for engineering excellence.

During the four-day course, students learn every aspect of aspect of project management. Although the learning is intense, it isn’t an all-encompassing course for mastery of the PMP test. Project managers can spend months studying for the exam which, once passed, allows them to add the credentialing letters “PMP” after their name. Three letters that open many doors in the engineer career field.

“For people who know about the professional certification, it is a benefit; an acknowledgement that you fully understand the project management process,” explains Alicia Bustamante, who took the course the last time it was offered at JED. “For a project manager that’s a very important certification. It brings credibility.”

Bustamante also said that while passing the test brought its own rewards, the path there was often nerve-wracking.

“You have to go to Tokyo and schedule a proctored meeting. That process is pretty easy, but it’s a three-hour long test,” Bustamante recalled. “It took me 3 hours to take the test. There were more than 180 questions.” Comparing notes with other test-takers after the exam, Bustamante said she made the discovery that the questions were completely randomized. “Some people had a lot of math questions on their test. I had relatively few.”

The number of questions and the unpredictable nature of what a hopeful project manager may be quizzed on is another reason why classes such as the PMP prep course are essential for success.

Luke Huynh, a project engineer with JED’s Kanagawa Resident Office is taking the course because he sees parallels between the concepts introduced here, and those in his career field of construction management.

“I’m focused on my CMAA (Construction Management) license,” Huynh said as he prepared for the final day of class. “This side is more on management, that side is more on construction. The concept behind both is very similar. This will be very helpful.”

Japan Engineer District is headquartered at Camp Zama and operates field offices throughout Japan. The District executes the Japan Host Nation Funded Construction and U.S. MILCON programs as the Department of Defense design and construction agent. The District supports U.S. Forces and other agencies with quality, professional and comprehensive planning, engineering, construction, environmental and other value-added services.