YB Machine Operator counts coworkers as ‘ohana’

Noe Hewlen, Young Brothers's only female Machine Operator, has spent 30 years on Oahu's docks.
Noe Hewlen, Young Brothers’s only female Machine Operator, has spent almost 30 years with the company.

Noe Hewlen: ‘I am very proud of my 29 years of service.’

By Hilary Reeves

Noe Hewlen is Young Brothers’s only female Machine Operator, a title proudly bestowed more than 20 years ago.

“I used to deliver 20 cases of paper to Young Brothers’s Operations Department,” she said. “I watched the Stevedores and Machine Operators discharge the barges and thought, ‘I can do that,’ which led me to apply for a Utility Stevedore position (now called Laborer). I was hired a couple of months later, and after eight years, I was promoted to Machine Operator.”

Hewlen grew up on the island of Oahu, graduating from Roosevelt High School in Honolulu. She was always athletic, playing basketball, volleyball and softball, and practicing Aikido from a young age. Her first job was as a security courier, picking up important and confidential documents from various Honolulu banks.

“I wanted to be a professional basketball player,” she laughed, “certainly not a Machine Operator.”

Hewlen said her greatest challenge has been transitioning to Leadperson during a Temporary Transfer.

“The Leadperson directs one barge gang in discharging and reloading the barge, determining the best and most efficient way to do it while meeting departure times,” she explained. “I usually start my day by attending our daily briefing – this includes a safety moment, as well as notice of any special cargo being loaded that day. The most unusual cargo I’ve assisted in loading was an elephant on the Kahului barge more than 20 years ago.”

Hewlen is also a trainer in the Operations department.

“When employees get promoted to the 27-ton, 35-ton and 40-ton forklifts, I love teaching them how to properly drive and operate these bigger machines safely,” she said. “As a trainer, I see the influence of technology on our operations being the biggest change in the near future, but one thing that will never change is our ability to discharge and load the barges.”

Hewlen said the most surprising thing about her career is the longevity she’s had with Young Brothers.

“I am very proud of my 29 years of service thus far, and I have no intention of retiring any time soon,” she laughed, “but when I do retire, I’m going to travel, especially overseas to Southeast Asia.  I’d like to experience a different world than what we live in.”

Not surprisingly, Hewlen said she’s most proud of her co-workers, whom she considers family.

“I spend more time here than with my family because of the hours we put in, but it’s worth it to be with the people I call ‘ohana.’”