By Mikey Culross
Rafu Staff Writer

In Robert Altman's 1969 film, "M*A*S*H," Margaret O'Houlihan exclaims, "I wonder how such a degenerated person could have reached a position of responsibility in the Army." The response come immediately: "He was drafted."

As they say, there ain't no draft no more, and the film's stark setting of the Korean Conflict has faded into the history books. In this new world of terror and unrest, however, the potency of wit against a backdrop of war remains as a powerful study of human contradiction.

Enter the Sarge.

From a small relocatable office, Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake serves in the Public Affairs Office for the California National Guard at Camp Roberts, about 45 miles north of San Luis Obispo. A well-decorated military professional, he is also a medic who has provided services during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and the Los Angeles Riots in 1992.

As serious as the surroundings {are}, Murotake is widely known throughout the armed forces as "The Extremely Deranged Sarge-at-Large," a persona he promotes weekly on a radio variety talk show. The broadcast originates from KTST-FM in Tustin, but is also sent out live over the Internet at ktstfm.com, every Friday night at 9:00, or if you prefer, 0500 Saturday, Greenwich-UTC/Zulu time.

Since its creation in 1997, the show has featured the ever-trusty Ethel, the "Mistress of Mirth," in addition to his electronic co-host, which the Sarge claims to be the "only laptop computer in the history of radio to receive fan mail." The repartee has drawn a wide range of comparisons, from Burns and Allen to Tom and Jerry, and even Ben and Jerry of ice cream fame.

Born in Denison, Iowa, Sgt. Murotake is the son of a former internee, and boasts a family heritage of military service.

"My parents met a a place called The Little Grass Shack, which may very well have been the only Japanese place in all of Omaha, Nebraska," he says. Two of his uncles served in the Hawaiian National Guard during the War, while another served with the 100th/442nd in Italy.

He originally enlisted as a Morse interceptor with the old Army Security Agency in 1973.

"My job was basically to sit there, listen to Morse code and take down letters. It was someone else's job to figure out what the letters mean.

"Unfortunately, I also had to learn how to type, and the keys on the typewriters had no letters. 'You know, we've been able to teach monkeys to take Morse code,' they said, 'and we're getting to where it's faster to teach the monkeys.'

"It was everything I could do to keep from saying something rude, like, 'Yeah, well they work for bananas, why don't you hire them?"

At one point he was a clerk who handled highly-classified documents that had to be burned under armed protection for security. "If I had worked at Enron, they wouldn't be having these problems

Headlining in The Rafu Shimpo!!

Since 1903, The Rafu Shimpo has been THE Los Angeles Japanese-American newspaper, and was up to Camp Roberts, trying to get an angle on Japanese-Americans in the National Guard. Unfortunately, we were only able to get one that was doing the mission, and he wasn't much for talking, really -- wanted to talk about his men, which is a good thing, of course, but wasn't that much to write about, Japanese-American-wise.

Unfortunately, the reporter still had a story to write... and there WAS this Japanese-American guy driving him around... well, at least he got the story... and the Guard did get coverage...

Front page, top, Saturday, 16 February 2002...

This Sergeant is Most Definitely at Large


Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake keeps 'em smiling and informed,

while the California National Guard keeps us safe.

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