KYOTANGO CITY, JAPAN - A scissors snip on March 1, 2022, was the final step for the U.S. Army’s Kyogamisaki Communication Site to finally came to completion, 9 long years since construction first began at the site on February 22, 2013.
“Today’s ribbon cutting ceremony is the result of many people’s hard work and dedication,” declared Col. Matthew W. Dalton, 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Commander. “These permanent structures and buildings symbolize the long-standing relationship between our two countries. That excellent relationship is alive and well between the people of KCS and the local community.”
Maj. Robert W. Elliot, 14th Missile Defense Battery Commander, agreed.
“Today we recognize the partnership we have built with our bilateral partners, our neighbors, and our friends,” Elliot said. “Without the support of Japanese leadership, the local construction workers, craftsman, and engineers, this would not have been possible. This is the facility that will carry the 14th MDB into the future.”
The facility, home to Soldiers from the 14th MDB as well as the 38th ADA, had been constructed in spurts. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Japan District completed the mission, or “work”, area in 2015, logistical challenges made construction of a suitable living and relaxation area for Soldiers delay until 2018. Now, 4 years later, it is finally complete, allowing for a better work-life balance for the Soldiers stationed there.
For Pfc. Shane Spencer, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) operator for the 14th MDB, the new area represents more than just balance. It brings a level of safety to her mission. Before the “life support area” (as they call it) was completed, Soldiers such as Spencer would have to commute more than half-an-hour back to their quarters in the nearest town.
“We had about three months where were [around the clock] and driving a half-an-hour after a 24-hour shift… it’s kind of dangerous because you’re tired, and these roads… we’re driving on cliffs. So being able to just walk down the hill after work is incredibly, incredibly nice,” the young Soldier explained.
“There’s also the social side effect of living in barracks,” Spencer continued. “We have our day rooms; we don’t have to worry about hanging out in the cold or hanging outside when it’s super-hot. We have all of our board games and whatnot, so the social side is very nice.”
But getting those niceties in place was a challenge, according to Tommy Rose, the Honshu Area Engineer with the USACE Japan who served as the KCS Project Administrative Contracting Officer. Creating a new instillation that sits atop towering cliffs on Japan’s western-most side is easier said than done.
“Essentially we were building a small town from scratch. You had to provide the water, you had to provide the power, and you had to handle everything going off the site,” Rose explained in his North Carolina drawl. “We built the buildings, the infrastructure from the ground up. We were partnered with a U.S. contractor that had partnered with a Japanese contractor… and they were a key proponent of getting this project built.”
The location, 8 hours away from the nearest USACE area office, also presented issues that had to be overcome.
“The biggest challenge of the site is that it was so far away from our normal infrastructure systems. So we had to coordinate for 1 to 2 individuals to come live out here and live on the economy and not have access to the normal [on base] arrangements that we have at Camp Zama or other military installations here in Japan,” Rose said.
There was a lot of hoop-jumping and meeting in the middle to get the KCS project completed. But getting it done was just as important to the Government of Japan as it was to the United States. The project was truly a joint partnership.
The Army and USACE showed their thanks, visibly, by painting all the buildings at the facility a light green to match the Japan Ground Self Defense Force buildings nearby. A startling sight to those used to the traditional Army brown buildings that populate other installations.
“This is an extremely important location. Kyogamisaki Communications Site is on the knife of freedom. We’re here to watch, monitor, and listen for the aggregated threats in the region who would do [America and Japan] harm. This is where the kill chain starts,” Maj. Gen. J.B. Vowell, U.S. Army Japan Commanding General, said, speaking to the Soldiers and special guests gathered for the ribbon cutting.
“I’m so glad that we could improve your life support out here because this is extremely important. The world is a dangerous place,” the general imparted. “The 14th Missile Defense Battery is sure to keep an eye on all of it so that aggression never gets the chance. And if you’ve been watching the news in Ukraine and with Russia, the fault lines of the international order are in play today and we’re sitting on one of them right here in the first island chain in Japan.”
And although the importance of her mission is not lost upon her, or the Soldiers stationed at KCS, for Pfc. Spencer the completion of the life support area is a force multiplier of a different sort.
“Having breakfast and eating with people is very, very nice,” Spencer beamed, perched atop a stool in the kitchen / recreation area. “With our unit being so small that’s honestly pretty good for morale, being able to just talk to anybody and have that kind of interaction. Plus, if anything actually happened, I know for a fact that I have a huge pool of knowledge sitting here at the bottom of the hill, and all I’d have to do is call and say, ‘hey- we need so-and-so up here,’ so mission-wise that’s a very nice safety net.”