News: Air terminal officially opens during ribbon cutting
Story by Cpl. Claudio Martinez
IWAKUNI, Japan - The new station Air Mobility Command passenger terminal was officially opened during a ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 19.
Col. James C. Stewart, station commanding officer, Air Force Col. Robert Ricci, 515 Air Mobility Operations Group commander and Masayoshi Tatsumi, Chugoku-Shikoku Defense Bureau director general, were at the ceremony to officiate the ribbon cutting.
“It truly is a bit of a momentous occasion that we get to open a new passenger terminal here in Iwakuni,” said Stewart. “The previous version of this was built by the United States Navy about 55 years ago. The Seabees did a great job in their construction. It served a purpose for a period of time but as with everything, you evolve and your requirements grow.”
The new air terminal is approximately 47,000 square feet and is able to process more than 800 passengers at a time, while the older one was approximately 9,000 square feet and could only process about 300 passengers at a time.
The air terminal was slated to officially open March 18 this year, but was delayed due to the station’s role in Operation Tomodachi. Operation Tomodachi was the joint humanitarian relief effort conducted by U.S. and Japanese forces to help victims of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami and subsequent aftershocks, which struck northern Japan March 11.
Stewart said the air terminal proved its worth during Operation Tomodachi as it played a crucial role during the humanitarian relief effort.
The air terminal is the newest U.S. air facility in the Western Pacific region and is the only one operated by Marines and supported by 515 AMOG. Iwakuni city, Navy, Air Force and Marine officials were present at the ceremony.
“(The air terminal) is really significant because this is a part of the strategic alliance that we have with Japan,” said Cmdr. Keith Applegate, station logistics officer. It stands as a symbol that represents the importance and capabilities of the alliance between U.S. and Japanese forces, he added.
Planning stages for construction started in 2001. Actual construction began in 2006 and finished in 2010.