YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Some of Yokosuka’s bachelor sailors found a little something in their quarters this year to help them relieve tension — something soft and reclining, that can be turned on at will: thirteen electric massage chairs, at a cost of $2,200 each.

The chairs, as well as new Internet cafes and continental breakfasts for transient sailors of all ranks, helped Yokosuka for the second time in a row win the Navy’s Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Award for excellent base bachelor housing.

The award, named for the Navy’s youngest Chief of Naval Operations, who died four years ago, means that the Yokosuka bachelor housing — from the serene house for visiting admirals, complete with private koi pond, to the barracks where enlisted sailors sleep two to a room — scored five stars, on a scale of one to five.

“There’s a checklist” inspectors use, said Lt. Barbara Gary, base supply officer. “But I think the main thing was the outstanding customer service we provide. Everybody just provides outstanding customer service.”

This was the second consecutive time Yokosuka has scored so highly. Before that, when Gary arrived on the base more than two years ago and the BOH carpet was being replaced with marble flooring, the bachelor housing, almost all of it built in the 1980s, got four stars.

Yokosuka isn’t the only Pacific naval base to do as well. Atsugi Naval Air Facility, in February, Misawa Air Base, in July, and Chinhae Naval Base in Korea, in April, also earned five stars and a Zumwalt award. Lito Galgana, bachelor housing manager, said Sasebo Naval Base got one, too.

“They copied from us,” Galgana joked. “They took pictures of our massage chairs. Now everybody has massage chairs.”

It’s unclear how many other bachelor housing facilities Navy-wide also earned the award, chairs or no chairs. All will be revealed at a conference in Denver in January, when all the winners are recognized. Galgana said 120 Navy bases have bachelor quarters but only half of them were able to compete for the five-star rating.

Two civilians who work for the Joint Interoperability Test Command out of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and who were assigned for a few weeks to Yokosuka, had a more measured view. Jessica Korme and Mark Jamison travel to facilities all over for the armed services.

They’ve stayed in bachelor quarters on Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.

“The Air Force has the nicest facilities,” Jamison said.

Korme nodded. “I was in heaven,” she said.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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