By Melissa Buckley
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni community members gathered at the new Veterinary Treatment Facility, July 13, to celebrate the grand opening of the state-of-the-art building.
Capt. Monika Jones, Public Health Activities Japan, Iwakuni Veterinary Services branch chief, said her team has been operating in the new building for a few weeks and she can already see how the new clinic is helping them to build moral and serve the air station’s animals better.
“The new facility is designed with our mission in mind. Military Working Dog care is our top priority,” Jones said.
The clinic staff also offers appointments to the privately owned animal population aboard the air station.
Kevin Braniff, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District, Iwakuni Resident Office, civil engineering technician and quality assurance representative, said the USACE personnel in Iwakuni started working on the new clinic back in 2015.
According to Braniff, the new building is strategically placed next to another Defense Policy Review Initiative construction project, the Military Working Dog Kennel.
“The projects constructed were a single-story reinforced concrete building for the veterinary services and community kennel facility, and a two-story building for the Military Working Dogs kennel,” Braniff said.
The new veterinary office includes a reception area, administration offices, three examination rooms, a pharmacy, centrally located treatment area, surgery suite, x-ray room, electrical room and mechanical room.
“We really love being in this new building and feel so privileged for the opportunity. Our old building was clearly never designed to be a vet clinic, but we made it work,” Jones said.
According to Jones, some of the challenges the animal caregivers faced in the old location were poor ventilation, lack of proper laboratory area, and a shared reception area for both the public kennel and the clinic, which she said, was often confusing for clients. She added that the old building also did not have a specific entrance just for Military Working Dogs, meaning the working dogs risked contact with privately owned pets while entering the building.
“Working in the new clinic has already been amazing. The air quality seems a million times better and the temperature is consistent throughout the entire building. We now have a legitimate surgery suite, that can be maintained in a sanitary condition and we can control how cold or warm the room is. We also have a lead-lined radiology room, which is safer for everyone, and designed for a brand new radiograph machine due for installation in August,” Jones said.
Some of her other favorite aspects are having three exam rooms instead of two and the fact that now they open into a common treatment area, the new laboratory room and the isolation room where they can house sick animals.
“This building as a whole meets our needs significantly better than the old building did, and we are incredibly thankful for all of the hard work that went into this building becoming a reality,” Jones said.
“I believe that the Army Corps of Engineers was able to provide essential technical expertise that I was not able to give, as I have no experience and no training in building and designing a new vet clinic,” she added.
Braniff said the best thing about working on this project was the final inspection and grand opening because it made him feel good to know the animals of Iwakuni would be receiving world-class care there.
According to Braniff, some of the challenges the Iwakuni Resident Office faced with this project were the demolition of the old water treatment facility where the clinic now stands, the close proximity of the facility to the sea wall and the electrical power installation.
Braniff said Noriyuki Mizuta, Iwakuni Resident Office general engineer, was the lead project manager for the clinic.
“Yuki put his heart and soul into making sure the project was just right for the Marine Corps Air Station Veterinary Treatment Facility personnel,” Braniff said.
The Iwakuni Resident Office currently oversees approximately 90 Japan Facilities Improvement Program, Military Construction and DPRI projects aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and the neighboring community area of Atago.