Alcohol restriction eased for sailors in Japan

In this Nov. 29, 2015 file photo, anti-U.S. base relocation protesters hold placards with a slogan that reads: "No to Henoko new base" during a rally in Tokyo as they show their strong support to Okinawans after the Japanese government took the local government in Okinawa to court in mid-November, launching a legal battle in their longstanding dispute over the planned relocation of a U.S. military air base on the southern island. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy on Thursday, Dec. 17 publicly defended the controversial proposal to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps base on Okinawa in southern Japan as the best of many options considered. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

The commanders of the US Naval forces in Japan have loosened the temporary alcohol restriction put in place earlier in June, following a string of alcohol related incidents that wrought outrage from the indigenous community.

According to the US Navy, the Commanders of the US 7th fleet and US Naval Forces Japan have issued the following statement:

“Effective immediately, Sailors are permitted to consume alcohol on base or in their own personal off-base housing units.  The temporary off-base alcohol restriction remains in effect.  Personnel located in Okinawa will continue to follow the provisions of the Period of Unity and Mourning in effect there.  Navy civilian employees, contractors and family members are asked to show solidarity with the uniformed component and refrain from consuming alcohol off-base at this time.”

According to RADM Matthew Carter of US Naval Forces Japan, “The temporary restriction on alcohol was not intended to be a punishment, nor was it ever intended to be permanent. We took this pause to train and reflect on the dangers of alcohol abuse.  We must all be on the lookout to step in before alcohol-related incidents jeopardize our relationship with Japan.”

Carter says that sailors in pay grades below E-5 who wish to drink must do so with a “liberty buddy” and that liberty plans will still be required. The exchange will resume alcohol sales and those wishing to stay the night off post must not stay anywhere off-base other than their own residence or hotel room.

“We are taking this latest step because our Sailors have demonstrated that they understand the strategic impact of their performance on liberty,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin of the 7th Fleet.  “We can take further steps after our Sailors demonstrate the ability to drink responsibly.  Responsible behavior by our Sailors in Japan is critical to our ability to provide security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

The restrictions were put in place following the arrest of a Navy Petty Officer was arrested for driving under the influence in Okinawa, resulting in her driving on the wrong side of the road, hitting two cars and injuring two people.  Prior to the incident, a US Marine contractor stationed in Okinawa was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman, while a US Sailor was arrested on the suspicion of rape in March.

Despite the joy likely felt by many service members under Navy command in the region, not everyone is content.

According to The Hill, tens of thousands are expected to rally outside the Okinawan capital, with demands of the removal of US Marines from the island as well as a review of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which sets guidelines for handling incidents involving American personnel.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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