Story by Samuel H. Bacon, Naval Air Facility Misawa
SAPPORO, Japan – This year marks the 35th consecutive mission to build a sculpture and to participate in one of the world’s largest snow festivals.
The sculpture chosen by the Navy team was that of the “Lone Sailor,” a statue found in several ports around the United States from Washington D.C. to Pearl Harbor.
“We chose this statue because it represents something that every Sailor [and Seabee] goes through at some point in their career,” said Chief Builder Frank Ring, a native of McLeansville, N.C., and this year’s Navy Snow Team leader. “At some point when a Sailor is far from home, or they rotate to a new command, they have a moment where they must rise to meet the challenge of being a United States Sailor. A man or woman out of their comfort-zone, rising to their job on their own. The sculpture represents that stand.”
The team began its work on the sculpture January 29th carving from a 6-by-6 block of compacted snow. With the statue’s completion, it was roped off and left on display for the 3 million festival goers expected to visit Sapporo during this year’s festivities. In years prior, statues varied as much as their builders, with sculpting of the surface warfare pin, the Fighting Bee of the Seabees, a Navy diver, and more.
The weather varied initially, with days of sun mingled with nights of snow, causing a statue collapse on the second day of work. Sheering off at the knees, the entire statue had to be rebuilt before the afternoon sun rose into the sky, ruining any chances of the ice setting for the night.
Arriving well before the other teams in the park, and leaving after the sun had set, the Misawa Snow Team met the challenge head on and rebuilt the sculpture to meet their Sunday deadline.
The Navy team also socialized with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) members at Camp Sapporo, who hosted and billeted the team during their stay in Hokkaido. JGSDF soldiers visited the sculpture on several occasions to wish the snow team well and to encourage their efforts in the conditions.
The Sailors and Seabees chosen to act as the Navy’s ambassadors to Sapporo this year were selected by their commands due to their superior performance both on and off duty.
“I’m glad to have been chosen this year,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Raven Harding, a native of Lawton, Okla., and a member of the snow sculpting team. “This is a once in a lifetime experience that positively represents the Navy and allows me to be able to talk to people from all around the world.”
This year’s Navy Snow Sculpting team comprised of Seabee Chief Petty Officer Frank Ring, a native of McLeansville, N.C., Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Bermudez, a native of San Diego, Petty Officer 2nd Class Leah Alstad, a native of Roseville, Minn., Petty Officer 2nd Class Raven Harding, a native of Lawton, Okla., Petty Officer 3rd Class Samuel Bacon, a native of Seattle, Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Hamilos, a native of Baltimore, Petty Officer 3rd Class Devin Kates, a native of Concord, Calif., Petty Officer 3rd Class Raul Serrano, a native of Miami, Petty Officer 3rd Class Dwayne Stampley, a native of New Orleans, Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Tulanko, a native of Mt Victory, Ohio, and Seaman Kyle Antrobus, a native of Georgetown, Ky.
The Navy snow team is one of several dozen teams designing sculptures this year, with teams ranging from Poland to Australia. The Japanese Self-Defense Force contributes two of the largest sculptures to the snow festival, ranging 40-by-80 feet in size. In previous years, JGSDF built structures modeled after Big Ben of London and the Arch De Triumph of Paris.
With the completion of the statue, the snow team from Misawa will stay several days into the festival to meet with the local and international community touring the sculptures, returning home to Misawa Air Base on Feb 9.