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NEWS | July 27, 2023

A home away from home: A little paint goes a long way to help Marines feel more comfortable during their stay at PSNS & IMF

By Ben Hutto, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

The United States Marines assigned to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility dedicate long hours ensuring shipyard and worker safety during fueling operations.

Hailing from as far away as North Carolina, these “Devil Dogs” supporting security operations at PSNS & IMF have a welcome place waiting at Capt. Patrick M. Rapicault Hall, tucked away on Farragut Avenue. This unassuming former calibration tunnel in the shipyard hillside has been transformed over the years into a working command center for Marines temporarily assigned to PSNS & IMF.

Since 1981, PSNS & IMF has employed Marines to help secure the shipyard during fueling operations.

“The Marines that come here are always professional,” said John Young, assistant fuel security officer, Code 1123, Fuel Security Operations. “Our security forces are great, but having them here provides another layer of security to ensure everything runs smoothly.”

Locations for hosting the visiting Marines have varied over the years, but eventually a permanent residence for their visits started to come to fruition in 2004. What began as an abstract concept, became a reality a year later when the tunnel began its transformation.

Selecting an area already located on the shipyard not only helped with readiness, it also helped the visiting Marines with area familiarization, said John Schaleger, fuel security officer, Code 1123.

From its humble beginnings, the tunnel soon began to take shape as a temporary home, and has been upgraded significantly in the years that have followed the first renovations. Most recently, Code 1123 has worked with Shop 71, Painters, to upgrade the aesthetics and function of the structure.

The tunnel is unassuming from the outside—its blue awning makes it indistinguishable from many of the others that dot the shipyard. Inside, however, Code 1123 has worked hard to make the structure a home away from home.

Marines who arrive now have dedicated living quarters for both men and women, facilities to store and prepare food, arms storage, a recreation area, a gym, an area to practice combatives and defense techniques, and a command center for strategic operations. Getting the tunnel up to its current standard has been a very long process.

“I asked the paint shop if they could paint [the tunnel] one color,” said Young. “I noticed when [Marines] would come in from their patrols they would lean their kits up against the walls, marking it up. I asked if they could paint the bottom half gray on one section of wall to help with that.”

The painters not only met his expectations they went above and beyond. The whole tunnel soon had a two-toned grey and white paint job with a red stripe (representing the Marine Corps colors) bisecting them. Marine logos, murals with Marine slogans and signs with Marine iconography further enhance the tunnels appearance.

It’s a touch that Young feels sends a message: that the shipyard cares and takes pride in the people working here, even if they are just here for a few weeks.

“It lets them know that the shipyard cares about them and what they do for us,” said Young. “I think it says something to them when they show up and aren’t given a dilapidated building. A lot of people may think, ‘A tunnel isn’t a lot’—but to them it is.”

Schaleger and Young say many of the Marines that have been assigned to PSNS & IMF have requested to come back for more deployments. Part of their reasoning, in his opinion, is how well they are treated by the shipyard.

Numerous plaques from visiting units, unit crests and unit coins line the walls as a testament to that appreciation.

In return, Schaleger and Young are proud to show their appreciation by continuing the tradition of creating a “home away from home” for the Marines who help keep our command safe and secure.