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Airman 1st Class Brian Bicham of the 730th Aviation Maintenance Squadron checks the ticketing computer for bugs Tuesday at the newly renovated passenger terminal on Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Airman 1st Class Brian Bicham of the 730th Aviation Maintenance Squadron checks the ticketing computer for bugs Tuesday at the newly renovated passenger terminal on Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
Airman 1st Class Brian Bicham of the 730th Aviation Maintenance Squadron checks the ticketing computer for bugs Tuesday at the newly renovated passenger terminal on Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Airman 1st Class Brian Bicham of the 730th Aviation Maintenance Squadron checks the ticketing computer for bugs Tuesday at the newly renovated passenger terminal on Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
Renovations are complete and have brought many changes to the passenger terminal at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Renovations are complete and have brought many changes to the passenger terminal at Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Air Mobility Command’s passenger terminal is back in its permanent spot following a $1.7 million renovation project that began in late February.

A Tokyo contractor removed all asbestos that couldn’t be crushed, rewired electrical components and made some minor structural changes in Building 80, just inside the terminal gate. Workers also constructed a secondary retaining wall outside the facility to elevate security.

For the past 10 months, the AMC terminal was operated out of Building 1213, the old base exchange on Yokota’s west side. That now will be converted into a new bowling center, slated to open in January 2006.

The changeover was completed last Sunday night, when officials closed the temporary site and relocated across the street the next morning.

“We’ve still got some scattered items over there. Otherwise, it’s completely closed,” said Capt. Jim Hearn, the 730th Air Mobility Squadron’s aerial port flight commander, who’s in charge of Yokota’s passenger and freight terminals.

“There’s just some small office stuff that needs to be moved. All of our customer-service stuff is already over here.

“We’ve had great support from everybody. It’s been relatively painless so far.”

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service restaurant, which received a divider wall during the overhaul, will reopen Wednesday at 4:30 a.m.

The terminal’s redesigned entrance area — now partially enclosed to keep passengers out of the elements — should provide easier access to the cafeteria because the security X-ray machines have been shifted to the gated section in the back, Hearn said.

“People are free to come and go for the AAFES cafeteria. Before, they had to go through the machines to get inside the terminal,” he said. “There’s no longer a single point of entry, so they’ll get more business.

“If we have to go to higher force-protection levels, we can move the X-ray machine out to the entrance,” Hearn added. “With the facility upgrades, we have the ability to expand security and force-protection methods at any time.”

Other amenities include a distinguished-visitor lounge, slightly expanded children’s play area, vending machines in the gated area that dispense hot food, new baggage carts and a family room with lounge chairs, video games, TVs, books and magazines. Hearn said the business center — complete with Internet access, mailbox, phone cards and fax machine — should be fully functional within the next two months.

Over that same span, AMC officials also will purchase replacement televisions, flat-screen monitors to display flight information and more toys for the kids’ room.

The building now features larger, more modernized bathrooms to better accommodate the 350 people who routinely pass through Yokota on Patriot Express missions.

The newly built force-protection barrier outside negates the need for a standoff area in the parking lot — a requirement under AMC terminal security standards — so workers partially redesigned the lot to open up 20 additional spaces.

“The building is much more aesthetically pleasing,” Hearn said, “but we’re providing the same level of service we did before, both in the temporary location and over here.”

Still, he conceded, the tempo should be considerably less hectic for AMC personnel now that they’re back in the home building, particularly on weekends, when the Patriot Express makes two flights. During the renovation, each flight required eight to 10 bus trips across Highway 16 to get travelers onto the plane.

“I’m real proud of our guys,” Hearn said. “They adapted to operations over there really well. I expected them to do well, but they exceeded all expectations.”

Yokota’s AMC terminal is a central hub on the Kanto Plain, handling about 9,000 passengers a month. That figure can climb as high as 13,000 during the peak summer travel months.

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