YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — For some 800 sailors working on the far side of Atsugi Naval Air Facility’s flight line, there are two ways to go for lunch: the “Roach Coach” or the shuttle bus.

The walk-up trailer, providing a limited food selection, has one small canopy for cover and no seating. And a round-trip shuttle bus ticket to either of Atsugi’s two galleys costs precious time.

“The main galley is as far from this line as you can get,” said Chief Petty Officer Jim Junior, an Atsugi spokesman.

But in a time-honored tradition, the Seabees — known for building air strips and bridges while ducking bullets, and whose motto is “We build, we fight” — are coming to the rescue. They’re building a new, conveniently located east galley, scheduled to be finished in September.

And no one is happier than the Seabees. In this case, they fought to build. “We wanted to prove to the community that we could do better projects,” said public works construction chief, Chief Petty Officer Eric Jovellanos. “It’s a means for us to train … where we build from the ground up and see it through to the end.”

The Seabees painted three shovels gold to mark the groundbreaking last month. When the project is complete, the facility will have a dining area with 35 chairs as well as counter seating and a recreation area with 30 more seats.

Having the Seabees do the project saves the estimated $490,000 it would cost to hire local contractors, said Lt. John Smith, Atsugi’s assistant public works officer.

The Japanese government provides for buildings on U.S. military installations, but the pot of money for that program has shrunk in recent years because of economic and political concerns, Smith said, and a galley would be a very low priority.

“In this case, it played out to be a perfect match for the Seabees, in terms of timing, the size of the project, the type of work involved, and also their willingness and eagerness to do this job,” Smith said.

The Atsugi Seabees, assigned to the base’s Public Works Department with a mission that includes supporting base operations, have had their share of smaller projects: laying sidewalks, installing fences and replacing light fixtures. At the same time, they’ve watched Seabees from the United States on short-term training, without more mundane responsibilities, do some larger projects.

So the galley is a very big deal.

“It will be something that everybody can see,” he said. “This is a building; the Seabees built it.”

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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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