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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — With dozens of construction projects under way and many to follow, Yokota officials are asking residents for patience as the base experiences growing pains.

The relocation of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s Air Defense Command headquarters and 850 personnel slated for early 2011, is spawning construction across the base, ranging from dorms and a mess hall for JASDF personnel to the actual 1.3 million-square-foot headquarters itself.

Several U.S. facilities are being renovated, relocated or demolished.

To help residents get a better grasp on some of the changes that will be taking place over the next few years, Col. Rafael Quezada, commander of the 374th Mission Support Group, hosted two town hall meetings at the base theater Monday.

The project has a total price tag between $450 million and $500 million.

More than 13 new JASDF facilities and seven U.S Air Force facilities will be built between now and 2011.

The Air Defense Command relocation to Yokota is part of the U.S.-Japan military realignment the two countries adopted in 2006.

"It’s an extremely aggressive timeline," Quezada said, adding that base residents will continue to see an increase in traffic, as hundreds of construction workers and vehicles stream on and off the base.

Already more than 200 construction workers and 100 concrete mixers are entering Yokota every day, Quezada said.

He said traffic will further increase as other construction projects start. To ease the strain, the base reopened the South Gate for construction crews and trucks.

Quezada said there are no plans for Japanese military families to move on base.

Instead, Japan is building a JASDF housing area outside the East Gate near the Diamond City Mall.

"A lot of people have also asked ‘Will the JASDF be allowed in our BX and commissary?’" he said. "The answer is no."

The same will apply for Americans using the JASDF exchange and dining facility, he said.

However, he added that shared-use policies for other base facilities, such as recreation areas and the fitness center, have yet to be determined.

Quezada also addressed several other projects and fielded questions from the crowd.

Responding to a question about a recent letter sent by the Department of Defense District Schools stating that all civilian employees would be moving off base by 2011, he reiterated it was untrue.

He said DODDS officials may have misinterpreted information on a PowerPoint slide during a housing presentation a few months ago.

The slide, which referenced a stateside survey that had been conducted earlier, listed the relocation of civilians off base as a potential scenario. However, Quezada said that at the time of the presentation this scenario was explained verbally to the attendees as not viable at Yokota.

"We’re overseas and we have an abundance of on-base housing," he told Monday’s audience.

Another topic audience members raised was the recent smoking ban in all dorms and tower apartments at Misawa Air Base. Several concerned and vocal residents said that they have cigarette smoke flowing into their homes from their neighbors’ units and asked if a similar ban could be implemented at Yokota.

"We have not considered that," answered Quezada, but said that he would be studying that as a potential course of action.

New facilities to be built on Yokota

Col. Rafael Quezada, commander of the 374th Mission Support Group, told a town hall meeting Monday that before any new JASDF facilities can be built, they must relocate the Air Force facilities they are replacing. While most of the construction on the JASDF building won’t begin for another year, work on several Air Force structures has begun or will begin over the next few weeks.

Among the facilities to be relocated or replaced are:

The Airman Leadership School will be moved to a new location next to the 374th Airlift Wing headquarters.

The Child Development Center located next to the fitness center will be moved to the west side of base where the field between the residential towers now lies.

The distinguished visitors’ quarters, Dorm 134 and several outlying buildings of the Kanto Lodge will be demolished and replaced by JASDF dorms, a bathhouse and parking. The DVQ and lodging will be replaced by a series of additions to the main building of the Kanto Lodge.

The parking lot and track behind the Samurai Fitness Center will be replaced by JASDF general officers’ quarters.

The Supply Gate guard shack will be replaced by a two-story joint visitor’s center and the area will be expanded to better improve the traffic patterns at the gate’s entry and exit point.

Other projects mentioned during the presentation:

A small shop and gas station located next to the Main Gate will open in June, replacing the Box Office Video shop on the South Side and the West Side gas station. In addition to offering 24-hour gas pumps, the shop will be open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday.

The restaurant located in the Yujo Community Center, formerly known as Suzuki’s, has been renovated and will reopen May 15.

Housing renovations as part of the Post Acquisition Improvement Program (PAIP) will continue with $50 million allocated for 192 housing units in Phase 4 and $51 million allocated for 186 housing unit in Phase 5. Quezada said the decline of the dollar against the yen meant having to reassess certain parts of the renovation, but expects to award the Phase 4 contract by September with work beginning a few months later.

— Bryce Dubee

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