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A surface warfare designation made out of two blocks of ice and snow stands on display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016. The Snow Team from Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan recreated the warefare dsignation in five days.
A surface warfare designation made out of two blocks of ice and snow stands on display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016. The Snow Team from Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan recreated the warefare dsignation in five days. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
A surface warfare designation made out of two blocks of ice and snow stands on display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016. The Snow Team from Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan recreated the warefare dsignation in five days.
A surface warfare designation made out of two blocks of ice and snow stands on display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016. The Snow Team from Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan recreated the warefare dsignation in five days. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
The Snow Team from Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan stands next to its display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016.
The Snow Team from Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan stands next to its display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)
A surface warfare designation made out of two blocks of ice and snow stands on display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016. The symmetrical design and detail proved the greatest challenge to the team of inexperienced snow builders.
A surface warfare designation made out of two blocks of ice and snow stands on display at the Sapporo Snow Festival Feb. 5, 2016. The symmetrical design and detail proved the greatest challenge to the team of inexperienced snow builders. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

SAPPORO, Japan — After nearly 40 hours of work in below freezing temperatures, the Snow Team from Naval Air Facility Misawa completed its sculpture in time for the opening of this year’s Sapporo Snow Festival.

The team of seven sailors and Seabees from the U.S. military’s northernmost base in Japan began work on the sculpture — a three-dimensional representation of a surface warfare insignia — five days ago.

The team had little more to work from than a drawing, but what started as two large chunks of an icy snow mixture, began taking shape after 12 hours of chiseling and filing.

“None of us have ever done this before, and it’s not like there’s a lot of YouTube videos out there to help either,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Thornton, a builder in the Navy’s famed construction battalion, who served as the team’s leader. “My experience in construction helped in figuring out the angles and how to cut them efficiently.”

One of the trickiest tasks was making the snowy warfare device symmetrical — a challenge for even experienced ice sculpting teams.

“We had someone stand back to give some perspective to the entire project because whoever was cutting had no idea what was happening on the other side,” said Thornton. “We had to wing a lot of it, but it worked out in the end.”

Though the cold air stung and handling snow for hours was numbing, it was the deadline that applied the most pressure, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Pauline Foust.

“The sun would come out and start melting the ice a little,” Foust said. “There’s plenty of snow everywhere, so it’s easy to fix, but there was only a few days to work before everyone would come see this. It felt like we were going faster every day and cramming more work in each day to make it in time. It was the craziest eight-hour shift I’ve been on.”

The Snow Team is composed of sailors nominated by their commands around Misawa.

“It’s hardly work; who’s going to say no to playing with snow for a week?” Petty Officer 3rd Class Nick Garcia said.

City officials expect more than 2 million guests to walk through Odori Park, a 1-mile stretch of land in the center of Sapporo transformed into a parade of snow statues for the annual festival.

This is Misawa’s 33rd year participating in the event. The work will be on display until Feb. 11.

kimber.james@stripes.com Twitter: @james_kimber

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