Yokota Air Base in Japan on Thursday kicked off the construction of a new apron for its existing airfield with a groundbreaking ceremony, combining customs from both the Air Force and traditional Japanese culture.
The new apron will give Air Force Special Operations Command’s 21st Special Operations Squadron a permanent home for its CV-22 Ospreys, Yokota said in a release, as well as new utility and communication infrastructure.
“The project will ensure the 21st has the permanent capability needed to effectively execute long-range infiltration and exfiltration missions, and provide disaster relief support in the event of crisis or contingency,” squadron commander Lt. Col. Jason Hock said in the release. “Forward-basing the CV-22 at Yokota provides an increased level of security, disaster preparedness and emergency airlift capability during crisis situations that will allow U.S. forces to support the defense of Japan and the region.”
The Army Corps of Engineers awarded Nippo the $63 million contract to expand the airfield in August. Construction is expected to be completed in 2022.
In the west of the sprawling metropolis that is Tokyo lies Yokota Air Base, a major air transportation hub in the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility and a critical waypoint for cargo, passengers and VIPs.
The groundbreaking included a prayer recital by a Shinto priest, to purify the site and wish safety on the construction crew, Yokota said. It also included offerings and prayers from the project partners and a sacred sake rite, the release said.
Yokota airfield groundbreaking
Because the groundbreaking site was a sacred space, the release said, airmen and other attendees washed their hands before entering in accordance with Shinto traditions.
The ceremony was attended by members from Yokota, AFSOC, the Army Corps of Engineers and Nippo Corp. Col. Otis Jones, commander of Yokota’s 374th Airlift Wing, AFSOC Civil Engineer commander Col. Christopher Fuller, and an unidentified representative of Nippo also spoke at the event.
“I am proud that our team here at Yokota is able to accommodate such an important project for our mission partners," Jones said. “We look forward to seeing this lead to increased capabilities for our Air Force and an opportunity to strengthen our relations with our community and mission partners.”