Base improvements keeping Army Corps of Engineers busy
June 14, 2009
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Whether you’re in Tacoma or Tallahassee, if you tell construction workers they’re going to be building a Chili’s restaurant, odds are they have a pretty good idea of what the project will look like.
If it’s going to be on a base in Japan, however, it’s a totally different story.
“Most Japanese contractors and workers would only see something like this maybe on TV,” said Augie Carrillo, the Yokota resident engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Slated to open later this summer, Yokota’s Chili’s is one of several construction projects the Corps is overseeing on base.
With work nearly complete, the building has been turned over to the 374th Force Support Squadron to put in the final touches to make it ready to serve customers when it is due to open this summer.
Franchises like Chili’s have a set way of doing things and are very guarded of their corporate identity and look of their restaurants, right down to the color of the paint on the walls and the type of tile adorning the bar, Carillo said. And if things don’t look just right then it won’t be a Chili’s, he added.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a franchise project like this,” he said. “It’s a little bit out of the ordinary as we normally build a lot of general purpose buildings.”
Grant Sattler, a public affairs spokesman for the Corps’ Japan District, explained the engineers have two main missions –— civil works and military programs.
Civil works primarily involve maintaining U.S. waterways, including navigation flood control, hydropower dams, water supply, hurricane and coastal storm protection and beach erosion control, he said.
As one of 45 districts within the Corps, including three in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, the Japan District differs from those in the States in that they have no civil works mission and that many of its construction projects are funded by the Japanese government, Sattler said.
Construction projects are divided between two types — on-base commercial projects like Chili’s and the much larger host-nation-funded projects to provide base infrastructure, housing and operational buildings. The Japanese government foots the bill for the latter to share the burden of stationing U.S. Forces in the country.
Headquartered at Camp Zama, the Japan Engineer District has resident offices at Yokota and Misawa Air Bases, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, and Sasebo and Yokosuka Naval Bases as well as offices in Okinawa, he said. In the Chili’s project, the Corps of Engineers reviewed the design and provided on-site construction oversight, including safety management, technical assistance and coordination between base agencies, government of Japan construction representatives and contractors.
“We wouldn’t just take plans and hand them over to a contractor,” he said. “We’re there along every step of the way of the design process.”
Just across the street from Chili’s the Corps is overseeing another project well under way. When finished, it will house Yokota’s Airmen Leadership School, part of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s Air Defense Command’s relocation to the base. The project is one of about 20 projects scheduled to take place on Yokota as part of the relocation.
Work on the leadership school is progressing rapidly; where only a few weeks ago there was only an empty field, workers Friday were setting up forms to pour concrete for the building’s second floor.
“(The Japanese contractors) are really a joy to work with,” said Carrillo, who praised their work ethic, attention to detail and strong sense of teamwork. “It’s a real team effort.”
For more information about the Army Corps of Engineers and their mission, go online to http://www.usace.army.mil/Pages/Default.aspx.