Builders finishing up new indoor community space as winter descends on Misawa
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STIRPES Published: December 10, 2018
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Winter is coming, and the Air Force is expanding indoor community space for troops and families at America’s northernmost military base in the Far East.
Airmen from the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron are close to finishing work on the Misawa Community Commons, a facility that will provide an extra 15,000 square feet of indoor space at the home of the 35th Fighter Wing in northern Japan.
A warm place to get together indoors is essential during winter in a place as cold as Misawa, said Community Services Flight chief Karen O’Camb, 55, of Warrensburg, Mo. “It can go as low as zero here.”
Average annual snowfall at the base is 128.7 inches although as much as 43 inches has fallen there in a single day, according to the 35th Operations Support Squadron.
Senior Airman Marcus Hairston, 29, of Martinsville, Va., gave Stars and Stripes a tour of the facility Nov. 27.
Members of the Civil Engineer Squadron have spent 1,737 hours building 165 linear feet of walls and hanging 1,320 square feet of drywall inside a half-century-old building that was once a passenger terminal, he said.
The facility includes three multipurpose rooms with 10,200 square feet of floor space; a “unit cohesion facility” where troops can hold farewells, promotion ceremonies and get-togethers as well as lounge areas where people can play video games and watch movies.
When the work is done people will be able to book space there free of charge for family or unit functions, O’Camb said.
The Community Commons won’t include a restaurant or bar but airmen and their families will be able to bring their own food and drinks to functions, she said.
Her deputy, Don Ehrman, 58, said the building will include an office for a new civilian staff member charged with helping units plan Morale, Welfare and Recreation events, classes and recreation programs.
“She’ll be teaching them how to play together as well as work together,” Ehrman said.
Misawa residents are already taking advantage of recent upgrades to their other large indoor recreation facility, known as the Weasel’s Den, which houses an Outdoor Recreation office and an indoor running track.
Last month the base opened a new, $77,000 gymnastics facility and filled it with $90,000 worth of equipment ranging from trampolines, swing bars, a balance beam and landing pads, O’Camb said.
Misawa has 200 kids involved in a tumbling program with three instructors. The new gear, in place as Japan prepares to host the Olympic Games in 2020, will help the youngsters move up to intermediate gymnastics, she said.