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Master Sgt. Joe Ives, right, of the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, shows 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy the new self-help store at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Master Sgt. Joe Ives, right, of the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, shows 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy the new self-help store at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The workplace for more than 800 U.S. military personnel and Japanese nationals here is much improved due to a $43.7 million construction project funded by the Japanese government.

On Tuesday, members of the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron celebrated the official opening of their new complex with speeches, a ribbon cutting, refreshments and a tour of the place.

“I love it. It’s bigger, better,” said Tech. Sgt. Donald Torgerson, a structural craftsman.

Torgerson was showing off the spacious carpentry and sheet metal shops to 35th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy.

“Compared to the old complex, it’s a 100 percent improvement,” he said.

“Old” in this case doesn’t just mean former. Civil engineers at Misawa previously occupied scattered facilities that were built in 1948 and 1949 and known for leaky roofs and lack of heating.

As O’Shaughnessy told the large crowd of civil engineers gathered in one of the complex’s new storage hangars, the squadron deserved better.

“You impact everything this base does” from the wing’s ability to do its mission to quality of life, he said. “You now have a facility which will enable you to do your job better.”

The project was completed in March, within budget and on time, noted Lt. Col. Joseph Marcinkevich, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

The squadron began moving into the new facility in May.

The new complex gives the squadron 220,000 square feet, about twice the size of the previous complex. Five facilities were built: administration, operations and maintenance, self-help and covered storage, horizontal and entomology.

“It is night and day,” Marcinkevich said. “You walk in with a sense of pride because of where you work. People are smiling a little bit more.”

Having the civil engineer shops less spread out with more storage space should translate into better customer service, he added.

Base officials said most of the old civil engineer facilities would be demolished. The new complex was funded through the Japanese Facilities Improvement Program. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw construction.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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