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Dirty Jobs - Yokota's Dirt Boys

This is the second article in a series focusing on and recognizing the 'Dirty Jobs' done by Airmen of the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron.

From keeping the flightline mission ready to maintaining the roads and sidewalks, the behind scenes work done by a small group of Airmen known as the 'Dirt Boys' keeps Yokota's mission going.

The 374th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and equipment shop understand aircraft operations depend on their ability to ensure the flightline remains fully operational.

"Our number one job is to maintain the airfield," said Master Sgt. Frank Uecker, 374 CES pavements and equipment shop section chief. "Through heavy rain, hail or snowfall, ensuring that the airlifting mission here at Yokota is not infringed on is why we're here."

Cement spalls are the most notable obstacle the 'Dirt Boys' face when working to keep. A spall is broken up, flaked, or pitted concrete. Environmental factors stress the concrete, causing it to become damaged and often creating spalls.

"Removing the small breaks as soon as they appear on the airfield is key part of our preventative maintenance practices," said Senior Airman Richard Mora, 374 CES pavements and equipment apprentice.

Additional preventative maintenance practices include clearing storm drains to prevent the runoff of rain or melted snow from flooding the airfield, removing weakened trees that threatened structures, and cutting grass.

"Nobody would ever think that cutting the grass would be an important task to accomplish," said Mora. "However, doing so prevents birds from nesting as well from grass from becoming overgrown and roaming onto runways."

The pavements and equipment shop also works to eliminate foreign object debris from the airfield.

"Whether it is propeller or jet engines, aircraft on the airfield have the potential to suck in FOD," Uecker said. "By eliminating FOD, we prevent unnecessary wear and tear to the engines." 

From shovels and jackhammers to cranes and bulldozers, the duties of the 'Dirt Boys' require them to be experts of a wide assortment of machinery. Their expertise allows the shop to assist other shops and squadrons around base.

"We assist any and everyone on base that needs a helping hand," Mora said. "From helping the heating and ventilation shop install a unit to supporting the maintainers with our cranes to hoist an engine, we do it all.

Mora admitted that the most challenging part of his duties was staying up to date of job knowledge.

"You have to be knowledgeable and have a hunger to learn if you want to be successful," Mora said. "You can't doze off or get sidetracked. People's lives can't afford it. From pedestrians and traffic to the Airman standing next to you, their safety and yours depends on your awareness."

It is clear that the 'Dirt Boys' have earned their nickname. From repairing cement spalls on Yokota's airfield to sawing down trees that may pose a threat to structures around base, their dirt covered uniform at the end of the day is a small sacrifice to ensuring Yokota's mission is not impacted.

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Dirty Jobs - Yokota's pest control

This is the first article in a series focusing on and recognizing the 'Dirty Jobs' done by Airmen of the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron.

The role of entomology Airmen is far reaching. From performing disease vector surveillance to providing base wide pest control services for insects and wildlife, these Airmen utilize both preventative and immediate response maintenance practices to ensure that facilities remain pest free.

Entomology's preventive maintenance program includes the monitoring of the 24 food facilities on base, including the Yokota Community Center, Enlisted Club and Officers Club.

"We ensure that food facilities are pest free environments," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Cenarrusa, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management craftsman. "We also help assist public health with sanitation of any potential issues at the facilities to mitigate potential human health diseases and hazards."

Entomology Airmen employ many different eradication methods when approaching the variety of pests they encounter, including pesticides and baiting, although, identifying and repairing any infrastructure imperfections that may lead to pest, is the most effective.

"By sealing cracks and crevasses, fixing door jams and removing areas where insects can get in and out of facilities, we can eliminate problems before they occur," Cenarrusa said.

Ensuring that all facilities practice effective sanitation procedures is another valuable method they use to prevent pests.

"Throughout our inspections, we provide recommendations to facility managers and individuals around the base to resolve any problematic areas that were the result of improper sanitation practices," said Staff Sgt. Joel Mendoza, 374 CES pest management craftsman. "Insects require food, warmth and water to thrive. If we can eliminate those sources in unwanted areas, we can reduce and suppress insects that are being attracted to that area."

It is the responsibility of everyone on base to do their part in decreasing the presence of pests. By maintaining good housekeeping as well as ensuring windows and floors are sealed correctly, we can minimize the chance of unwanted visitors. In addition, they have the additional responsibility of assisting with the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard program.

"We have the responsibility of suppressing the presence of birds throughout the base," Cenarrussa said. "Because birds pose a potential threat to the safety of our aircrew and aircraft, we work alongside Wing Safety to ensure the threat is minimized."

374 CES entomologist also work to keep the airfield wildlife free by baiting and relocating animals such as weasels, ferel cats and dogs.

"Yokota has its own unique challenges when it comes to pest eradication, but that's one of the reasons why I love my job," Cenarrusa said. "Every base you go to is unique - from the pest themselves to the climate and methods of control, there is always an opportunity to learn new things in the career field."

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USO Empire tour visits Yokota

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Yokota travel series: Takahata Fudo Temple

There are numerous temples throughout Japan for adventurous travelers to visit. One of those temples is Takahata Fudo Temple, which was founded near the beginning of the 8th century to serve the imperial family. The temple is one of the three famous Kanto Fudo Buddhist temples

Visitors enter the temple through the Niomon, the main gate, to view the Fudodou, the main temple, multiple buildings and 88 Buddhist statues along a hiking path.

The Fudodou Temple has small rooms on both sides of the altar. The original temple was located on the top of the hill, but was destroyed by a storm in 1335 and then rebuilt in its present location.

The new Fudodou Temple was constructed in 1987 and is a replica of the previous structure. The 200-year-old ceiling with the painting of a dragon was transferred to the new building. The new building still features the chrysanthemum crest, which represents the royal family and indicates the royal family used this particular temple at some time in the past.

During the short hiking course, people can view 88 Buddhist statues. The statues are marked from one through 88 and lead to an observation point on the hill ending with the final statue next to the small Daishido Temple.

Within the temple grounds are special talismans for sale which are believed to protect the charm owner from fires, illness and thieves. They also sell good luck charms for ensuring easy childbirth, family harmony, successful business and traffic safety.

There are also a variety of festivals held at the temple such as the Ajisai (Hydrangea) Festival, Chrysanthemum Festival and Mame-maki Festival.

The Ajisai Festival is held in June and exhibits more than 7,500 ajisai flowers blooming under the rainy-season skies.

The Chrysanthemum Festival, held in late October, exhibits over 1,500 kinds of chrysanthemums, consisting of large blooms, cascades, bonsai shrubs, cut flowers and more.  The festival also features special flower displays and gives the participants the opportunity to buy plants and participate in classes on growing chrysanthemums.

The Mame-maki Festival is held in February and involves people who are born in the year of the same Chinese zodiac sign as the current year throwing beans to chase away demons.

A train ride from Fussa Station to Takahata Fudo station takes approximately 42 minutes. From Fussa, take the Ome Line towards Tokyo and get off at Tachikawa Station. Then take the Tamatoshi Monorail towards Tama Center and stop at the Takahata Fudo Station. Finally, the traveler embarks on an eight minute walk to Takahata Fudo Temple.

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Airman experiences the drift zoo

Drifting can be described as the controlled chaos of sliding a vehicle around a turn. It's a sport of beat-up cars and burnt rubber, associated with hitting dirt banks and losing bumpers. Even the best drifters smack a wall now and then.

Yokota Airmen find different ways to channel their creativity and energy during their off-duty hours. Some go camping, some play ultimate Frisbee on Saturdays and others rip around tracks in shuttering, beaten cars at high speeds.

 "Drifting is the kind of thing every kid wants to do when he gets his license at 15," said Joseph Galloway, a 730th Air Mobility Squadron jet propulsion technician most often found with either a wrench or a steering wheel in hand. "I've never met anyone who went out there, experienced drifting, and didn't like it. It's wide-open throttle. It's burning rubber and burning gasoline and almost crashing. And crashing for real. Who doesn't wanna do a burnout sideways in a beat up car sliding against walls?"

Of course, Airmen are required to wear proper safety gear and fill out high-risk activity forms before participating in drift events. This ensures Airmen have experience and knowledge of an activity before participating, reducing the risk of harm.

To find out what drifting is all about, I spent a weekend with a group of five Yokota Airmen and two separated Airmen at Ebisu Circuit: a one-of-a-kind, combination zoo and drift track in the mountains of Japan. That weekend Ebisu held a fall drift festival, or Fall Matsuri.

The group drove four hours in a packed van to make it to their drift haven.

The entryway to Ebisu is hard to miss, marked with a large, zebra-striped display board mounted with a centered lion head surrounded by perching flamingoes.

"Ebisu is like Disneyland for drifting," said Angelo Manalastes, a dark haired, energetic young man who formerly worked as an Air Force vehicle mechanic. "Japan has some of the best tracks. Drifting is huge here, like Nascar to some Americans."

The night before the gates opened for Fall Matsuri, cars already crowded the entrance. The entire weekend was a rush of activity and energy. Inside the gates, children and bears watched smashed-up Skylines sputter past them as if there is nothing odd about a zoo-drift circuit.  Our group had been waiting for this weekend for months. The unwelcoming fall weather stayed mostly rainy and cold and their breath froze as they set up a tent on the pavement by the track. Sometimes their fingers shivered as they turned wrenches and cut wires, yet they were excited. Their spirits never seemed to fall for more than a moment. They laughed, joked and jibed each other constantly. The Airmen were enjoying their time off, doing the thing that they love.

 "When you're out on the track you don't even think about anything," Galloway said. "That's it, you're just out there. If you spin out it might be frustrating, but then you're having so much fun you can't really be upset."

Spinouts are common, and the track was designed with them in mind. Most turns have plenty of margin to get off the road.

"Safety is kind of a big deal," Galloway said. "No one get hurt because we have roll cages reinforcing the frame of the cars, we've got helmets, everyone's buckled up and you never have anything in the car that can fly around if you do end up crashing."

I'd never seen or heard anything like the drifting spectacle. As some of the Airmen tried to get the cars running, the less mechanically inclined of us stood by the track and watched drivers catch air and then spray us with sheets of water as they ripped around the bend, leaving as quickly as they came, the scream of their engine trailing behind the body. Some of the cars were beaten and some were shiny. Sometimes they made a perfect drift, sometimes they spun out and sometimes they hit the wall.

"When you're on the racetrack you can drive fast and slide corners and there are no consequences," Galloway said. "You're spending the money to burn the rubber and burn the gas and break the parts and rent the camping gear, but at the end of the day if you wreck into somebody else, you share a drink and talk about it afterwards. Then you fix your car and get out there again."

The Airmen and friends spent the two days fixing and driving their two drift cars, named Team Crash and Tire Eater. They called them missiles.

"A drifting missile is a car that you don't care about," Manalastes explained. "You don't mind slamming it into a wall or another car. The one we drive's got a little damage but I still love her. She's pretty."

Manalastes and Galloway drive the car named Tire Eater, inherited from previous drifters.

"She's faithful," Galloway said. "She runs well no matter what we do. There's not a corner on that car that's not messed up. The sides are probably pushed in six inches on each side and the back. It has no front or rear bumper or side skirts. She was probably one of the most beat up cars there."

They fixed Tire Eater enough to drive and ripped until they had to fix it again. All day pieces went flying, zip ties put them back on and ratchet straps held things together. Tires came off, tires went on, wires were cut and parts were replaced until inevitably someone said "Let's go eat!"

Meals were a reprieve from the constant rain and soggy cold. The group stayed in good spirits and continued racing along.

"It's nonstop chaos and that's the best part," Galloway said. "If you want to go make new friends or ride along with someone who's way better than you, you can do that. There's a lot of Aussies and a lot of Japanese that know some English. They don't even need to know English, you can just go up and make hand motions. It's almost like a big game of charades trying to communicate sometimes. They understand a little bit and you understand a little bit and everything works out."

Drivers come from around the world to drift at Ebisu, and it's a chance to meet a lot of people. The Ebisu trip was also a chance for all the Airmen to get a little more connected to their host country. Between the food, people, traditional-style rest stops, hot springs and even karaoke, there was a lot of culture to enjoy.

The friendships don't stop at the circuit. Three weeks after the Fall Matsuri, Manalastes and Galloway invited about 30 Japanese friends on base for a barbeque. These were friends they had met at car meets, auto shops and Ebisu.

"It was crazy how many people showed up," Galloway said. "Some of the guys we met at Ebisu drove almost two hours to meet up."

The crowd enjoyed an entire day together, cooking, eating and talking around the fire. New friends added each other on social media and made plans to meet again in the future.

Whatever job Airmen are working, taking some time to spend energy and creativity away from work is an important part of balancing their lives. People who enjoy cars have a bond that reaches across cultures. Whatever the interest, the relationships and the experiences are there, waiting to be made. It may just take a few words to kick it off, like "Hey man, what are you driving?"

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Honoring those who serve

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VIGILANT ACE: Maintaining the night

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Staying on Target

In keeping with their combat readiness requirements, Airmen participate in the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance course to learn skills vital for defending themselves and their fellow Airmen downrange. Airmen have to meet minimum qualifications in order to pass the course. They must demonstrate full knowledge of safety rules, procedures and characteristics of multiple weapons and types of ammunition.

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Airlift on display

The 374th Airlift Wing is responsible to the 5th Air Force commander for C-130H, UH-1N and C-12J operations including tactical air-land, airdrop, aeromedical and distinguished visitor airlift.

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Propulsion flight: Aircraft insurance

Whether it is diagnosing engine problems or removing defective components to install serviceable machinery, one flight at Yokota Air Base ensures that the aircraft are ready to fly at a moment's notice.

The 374th Maintenance Squadron propulsion flight provides engines and propellers to the C-130 Hercules to make sure the aircraft can fly to perform airlift and humanitarian missions throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific Region. The flight also provides engine and propeller support for Kadena Air Base and other active duty, guard and reserve C-130s that are tasked within the area of responsibility.

"Our job is extremely important because we are here to fix anything that goes wrong with an engine that cannot be repaired on the flight line," said Senior Airman Colton Windsor, 374th MXS propulsion flight aerospace propulsion journeyman. "We provide the necessary maintenance to guarantee the engines and propellers are ready to go."
The propulsion flight is separated into four sections.

The jet engine intermediate maintenance section performs routine maintenance work on the engines and rebuilds engines when necessary.

The propeller section creates propellers and performs routine maintenance work by fixing any leaks and replacing seals on the propellers.

The test cell section performs checks on the engines and propellers to ensure they run efficiently and are free of any leaks.

The kits section inspects, replaces and cleans all of the engine parts that are hard to reach.

"Our mission here (at Yokota) is to perform humanitarian and airlift missions throughout the Pacific," said Staff Sgt. Daylon Siverly, 374th MXS propulsion flight JEIM section chief. "We provide engines for the C-130s so they can perform any necessary task and be ready to go at a moment's notice."

The Airmen within the propulsion flight take pride in knowing their job directly impacts the mission.

"It personally makes me proud to be able to say that I build engines and propellers, and make sure the mission happens," Windsor said. "If the pilots are ready to go and there are no engines, then there is no flying; if there is no flying there is no mission."
 

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Airmen provide flood relief to Kanuma

Tropical Storm Etau hit eastern Japan with a large amount of rain, 26 inches total between Sept. 6-11, causing floods and landslides. More than 12,000 homes were flooded throughout the Greater Tokyo region and 350 landslides struck Tochigi prefecture alone.

In response, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron put together a 60-member team to assist in flood relief efforts in Kanuma city, Tochigi prefecture.

The teams arrived Sept. 13, working out of the local elementary school, and stayed on ground through Sept. 15, helping local residents restore their properties to pre-flood conditions.

Splitting into multiple teams, the volunteer force cut tons of lumber that had rolled onto a local ice rink and farmer's field, allowing for much easier removal. They also cleared the farmer's irrigation drains and repaired broken items around his property.

Upon completion of the school and nearest farmer's land, the teams dispersed throughout the local area, clearing mud from driveways, garages and yards for the young and elderly. They also unclogged an irrigation system covered in more than six feet of mud for another farmer.

Maj. Korrine Takeyama, 374 CES operations flight chief and volunteer lead, said her 'guys' were happy to help.

"It's been fantastic," she said. "We love doing this. It's our bread and butter. We train for this--doing humanitarian work."

Takeyama said the volunteers would stay until the area was 100 percent restored if they could, but mission requirements only allowed for three days. The 374 CES commander offered a 48-hour pass to anyone who wanted to support the volunteer effort. A few Japanese workers even took leave in order to volunteer.

"The support we received was overwhelming," Takeyama said. "Everyone was willing to give their time. It's been great to see the squadron come together for such a good cause."

The volunteers were there to assist the local community, but Takeyama said they also supported a coworker.

"It was a chance to not only help a community in need, but also support one of our own who grew up in Kanuma," she said.

Marco Furlan-Kaneko, 374 CES portfolio optimization element chief, spent years of his childhood in Kanuma. Born in Guatemala, son to a Guatemalan father and Japanese mother, Kaneko moved to Japan at the age of three and lived there until he was 11.

Relaxing on his off-day, Kaneko stumbled upon the flooding information while watching the news. He wasn't sure if it was his childhood city or not, but he was drawn to help.

"They were calling for volunteers and were in need of bodies," Furlan-Kaneko said.
He took his found information and contacted the squadron leadership. A few hours later, 60 volunteers were scheduled to leave early the following morning.

"I've been in commander's calls and working with our Japanese partners is always the message," Furlan-Kaneko said. "These past few days, I truly know what that feels like. It is a sad reason why we are here, but it made the community come together, it made us come together and work toward a common goal."

The morning of the volunteer's final day, the local elementary school invited the volunteers to a presentation. The principle expressed his gratitude to the team for their support in restoring the community.

"We don't know how we could ever thank you," the principle said. "But, what we can do, is teach our children the volunteer spirit that you have showed us and when a disaster like this hits again they will go out and help others."

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Not your average wingman

Every day as the sun rises above the horizon, Yokota Air Base's defenders are already hard at work keeping Team Yokota safe. Their day begins when they are assigned a patrol car, protective equipment and their partner. Just like in civilian law enforcement, military patrolmen place their lives in their partner's hands, forging bonds of trust and respect. The 374th Security Forces military working dog handlers take that bond to the next level; the dog isn't just their partner, the dog is family.

Kennel masters across the Air Force diligently study personality profiles of their charges, human and canine, to form the best teams possible. Such is the case with Staff Sgt. Nicholas Galbraith, 374 SFS MWD handler, and his partner, Topa.

"Dogs, just like people, have their own personalities and Topa and I have the same kind of mentality." Galbraith said. "He's very high drive. He's the kind of dog that when he needs something he'll go straight for it, and I understand that."

As a Belgian Malinois, Topa doesn't possess the jaw strength of the German Shepherd breed, but he makes up for it with his boundless energy and fighting spirit according to Galbraith. Like all U.S. Air Force defenders, Topa was trained at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where that fighting spirit cost him half an ear during rough play with the other MWDs. He began to show signs of a 'dog-aggressive' nature. This worked out perfectly for Galbraith.

"When I went back to Lackland for training, both dogs that were assigned to me showed 'dog-aggressive' tendencies." Galbraith said. "It's almost like I was being trained to work with Topa from the start."

According to Galbraith, the personalities of both the handler and the dog are important when forming teams. A large disconnect between the two can cause a pair of otherwise talented individuals to form a lackluster partnership. Learning how to read the emotions and mindset of the animal is just one way that handlers can work to bridge that gap.

"My boy has a lot of energy," Galbraith stated proudly, patting Topa's head. "If he was placed with a more laidback handler he'd either be really bored or walk all over that handler."

High-drive and energy isn't solely Topa's domain. Galbraith is a self-proclaimed fitness guru who practices martial arts, including Muay Thai, as a form of stress relief and to maintain his physical wellbeing. When asked about the physical nature of his career field, Galbraith responded by saying that it was just one part of his and Topa's job as Airmen.

"Being physically, mentally, spiritually and socially fit is just as important for the dog," Galbraith said. "The whole Airman concept applies to them too because they have to deal with the same stressors we do and sometimes more."

To be prepared for working with his four-legged wingman, Galbraith was given emergency field veterinary care similar to the self-aid buddy care taught to Airmen in basic military training. This is just one more way in which MWDs are comparable to their human counterparts. Despite all of these similarities handlers must always remember their partner isn't human.

"Sometimes it's easy to forget that they really are just dogs and still do dog things like sniffing and marking territory," Galbraith said. "It's their pack mentality which makes the MWDs loyal to their handler before anyone else."

Topa is Galbraith's first canine partner, outside of training, and they have been working together for one year. Handlers in the USAF are assigned a different MWD at each base they are assigned to in contrast to the other branches of service where a team is only broken when one of the members separates from the military.

"Yokota is my first base as a K9 handler, and Topa's the first K9 I've worked with," Galbraith said. "I got lucky with him, he's an awesome dog. I'm sure everyone says that about their dog but I truly believe I couldn't have gotten a better partner."

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Sounds of Freedom

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Yokota trains airlift capabilities

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CMSAF, Airmen display resiliency on Mt. Fuji

Resiliency.  It's a word that every Airman serving today should know, as it's the cornerstone of the Air Force's Comprehensive Airman Fitness.

The CAF is built upon four pillars that help build resilient Airmen: physical, spiritual, mental and social.

Airmen from Yokota Air Base, Japan, tested many of those pillars as they climbed Japan's tallest mountain, Mount Fuji, on 11 July, 2015.  The climb, which reaches an altitude of 12, 389 feet, started at the 5th station, at 7, 562 feet elevation and took four to seven hours to accomplish.

Yokota Airmen had a special guest climbing alongside them, as Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody climbed to the summit of Fuji with the group.

"Having the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force climb alongside us was a great bonus," said Staff Sgt. Kelcey McDonald, U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific-Asia audio engineer.  "I got a chance to shake hands with him on the journey and talk with him at the top of the mountain."

But the trip up the mountain isn't an easy trip, and when challenged, Airmen had to rely upon those pillars of resiliency to accomplish their goal of reaching the summit.

"The challenges I faced were spiritual, mental and physical," Mc Donald said.  "When I wanted to quit, I had to believe my higher power would help me make it to the top, even as I debated in my mind how much I had left versus how much I'd already climbed."

But despite the challenges, McDonald was able to reach the summit, which he attributes to his resiliency and the importance of having a wingman.

"Being resilient and having an Airman wingman were critical to my success," McDonald said.  "You have another voice to encourage you and remind you that you are not alone in the journey."

Building that wingmanship is a core aspect of resiliency according to Cody.

"Team building is building resiliency," Cody said.  "When you learn things about people, get to know them on a more personal level, start to think about them a little bit differently, start to care about them differently, it does go to the resiliency."

That resiliency and wingmanship was important as members climbed to the top of the mountain according to Cody.

"You draw strength from one another," Cody said.  "People definitely drew strength from each other today."

In the end it was a great experience, heightened by having the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force lead the way, said McDonald.

"This is another example of our top Airmen leading the way," said McDonald.  "It was great to have him there at the summit to welcome those who have followed the path and achieved the same outcome."

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Yokota celebrates America

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Sparks fly at Metal Tech.

Sparks fly as Airmen help pieces of metal take form. These Airmen sometimes create something from nothing or improve necessary equipment for squadrons to continue their daily tasks.

Airmen from the metal technology section of the 374th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight play an essential role in completing a mission of Yokota Air Base, Japan, by keeping aircraft flying.

"Our shop does things that no other shop can do," said Staff Sgt. Robert Freeman, 374 MXS aircraft metals technology craftsman. "We are kind of the last line of defense on base, when something is broken and nobody can fix it, they bring it to us."

The metal technology shop performs maintenance work with welding and machining equipment to keep the aircraft in flight and repair equipment for various base agencies.

Jobs the unit completes are measuring broken or worn parts, drawing working sketches, arc welding, perform precision grinding to remove poisonous or corrosive deposits, and writing programs for machines using manual and computer-aided manufacturing methods.

A typical repair request the shop receives is to fix the exhaust on a C-130 Hercules. The shop grinds out the cracks and welds the repair.

The shop also manufactures metal parts for other squadrons throughout Yokota, such as a bracket for a trash compactor crane for the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron.

"Our job is important because if tools or parts cannot be acquired by the Air Force, we can replicate, make or improve those tools," said Senior Airman Justin Weeks, 374 MXS aircraft metals technology journeyman.

If the shop didn't exist, the base would have to outsource the work off base in Japan or try to get something from a boneyard in the states.

"We are here to prevent that from happening because sometimes parts are not procurable anymore," Freeman said. "We create and maintain various parts for the aircraft to ensure it is capable to fly and ensure the safety of the aircrew."

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A week at Yokota Air Base

The 374th Airlift Wing includes four groups: operations, mission support, maintenance and medical. Each group manages several squadrons in order to carry out the wing's mission.

Yokota Air Base is also home to U.S. Forces Japan, a joint service headquarters coordinating matters affecting U.S. and Japanese defense relations, and Fifth Air Force, whose mission is to enhance the U.S. deterrent posture and, if necessary, provide fighter and military airlift support for offensive air operations.

As the primary Western Pacific airlift hub for peacetime and contingency operations, the wing provides airlift for the movement of passengers, cargo and mail to all Department of Defense agencies in the Pacific area of responsibility and provides transport for people and equipment throughout the Kanto Plain and the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Yokota hosts several tenant units including the 515th Air Mobility Group, which manages air mobility operations throughout the Western Pacific, and the Japanese Air Defense Command which controls Japan's air defense mission.

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I just want to dance

Everybody has a hobby. It can be a way to blow off steam after a long day of work or something that is a challenge mentally or physically. For Senior Airman Jessica Turney, 374th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, her hobby is dance, every single type and style of it.

"I've been trained in different styles of dance such as ballet, tap, point, jazz and contemporary and when I moved away from home, I took up hip-hop," Turney said. "I started in freshman year of high school, so it's been almost been 10 years."

Turney says that she was involved in theater when she was little. As a child she was a part of the community children's theater where she participated in a lot of plays. It wasn't until much later on that she discovered her love of dance.

"When I started high school I had a bunch of briefings on the different clubs offered and I remember that the dance team was having tryouts," Turney said. "I just randomly chose to go and really enjoyed it. I've never been good at sports, but dance was something that came easy to me."

She was lucky enough to be able to practice dance and other interests during school. Unlike most high schools in the U.S., Turney's was a school of the arts. She had normal classes from eight to 11 a.m. and after that until five p.m. the school would bus them to a university downtown where she would take musical theater.

Since finishing high school, Turney joined the Air Force. This type of change in someone's lifestyle and where they live can make someone's hobby difficult to continue depending on where they get stationed. Fortunately, problems like a language barrier in Japan don't really have an effect on Turney's ability to hone her dance skills.

"No matter where you go, there's always somewhere to dance," Turney said. "When I was stationed near Enid, Oklahoma, I danced and taught at this little hole-in-the-wall studio. Even in Japan with communication problems, the language and terminology of dance is the same. I'm still able to learn and dance."

Being able to move around the world has actually been beneficial for Turney as she gets to experience new styles and what's popular.

"In Japan, the style of hip-hop dancing is different," she said. "Their style is more 'house' and 'pop and lock', where back home in San Diego, breakdancing was more popular."

Turney's not really sure what the future holds in terms of a career in dance. She says that she loves to teach so maybe she will open up her own studio, but for now she remains unsure. She has a hand in a lot of different projects, one of which is her own called the dance project.

"The dance project is a small group of individuals here on base that have danced during the youth festival, the Mrs. Sakura Pageant along with a few other events," Turney said. "We've also danced around Fussa, Japan, a few times."

No matter what Turney decides to do in the future, one thing is clear.

"Dance will always be in my life and I'll continue to practice it until I'm much older," Turney said. "I'm going to be that old lady doing hip-hop. I believe that once a dancer, always a dancer." 

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Yokota Striders hosted 31st Annual Ekiden Run

More than 5,800 runners participate in the 31st annual Ekiden Run at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 7, 2015. The Yokota Striders running club sponsored the annual Ekiden Run consisting of three different races at this event: a 4-person 5k relay, 5k race, and 2k Kid's Run.

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