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Two soldiers sent to 'battle space' in remote Japan Pair's mission is to track missiles By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes Pacific edition, Sunday, October 7, 2007 [EXCERPTS]

[Figure caption:] Capt. Will Hunter is commander at the Shariki Communications Site, a two-person unit that oversees security and maintenance of an X-band radar system. The X-band radar tracks the ascending trajectory of rising missiles in the sky. Hunter looks out from the radar's face westward toward the Sea of Japan. "I like it out here," Hunter said. "I like the peace and quiet." Teri Weaver / S&S

[Figure caption:] First Sgt. Ben Williams, left, and Capt. Will Hunter, at work in their office at Shariki Communications Site. The base is on a secluded bluff above the Sea of Japan. The two service members and the 100 or so contractors who work at the site are still in temporary offices after more than a year in operation. Future plans include adding a permanent building to the site and bringing on one more soldier to the unit. Teri Weaver / S&S

[Figure caption:] The village of Shariki sits at the northern edge of the Tsugaru plain, a flat of rice fields that separates the sea and the cities of Goshogawara and Tsugara. Last fall, the U.S. Army stood up the Forward-Based X-Band Radar Transportable unit, which is detached from the 1st Space Brigade in Colorado and attached to the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Hawaii. The unit in Shariki includes two soldiers and about 100 contractors who secure and maintain a system that tracks rising enemy missiles from the west. Teri Weaver / S&S

Editor's note: A year ago, with little fanfare, the U.S. military set up a missile tracking station in Japan. Today the base is manned by two soldiers and dozens of contracted technical and support personnel. Today, Stars and Stripes reporter Teri Weaver takes a look at the station and the people who run it. Tomorrow, Stripes looks at how the new base has assimilated into the Japanese community.


Shariki Communications Site, which quietly started operations last year, sits on a wooded bluff on the edge of the Sea of Japan. Since then, the farming and fishing village of 5,500 has been home to about 100 government contractors and two Army soldiers who make up the Detachment 3 of Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 1st Space Brigade in Colorado.

Their mission: To run an AN/TPY-2 radar system capable of tracking ballistic missile launches headed from Asia toward America and its allies.

The roads toward Shariki trail upward from the Tsugaru Plain, a flat of arrow-straight rice paddies golden yet faded in early fall. The nearest and biggest city, Goshogawara, with its two malls and one dance club, is about 45 minutes away. The nearest U.S. base is in Misawa, more than two hours by car in good weather. In the winter, the region averages about 36 feet of snowfall.

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