Military alcohol restrictions modified on Okinawa

 A change to military policy once again permits off-base drinking by service men and women, but not always and not everywhere.

The new rules are now in effect for a week, after six months of no off-base drinking, and reaction is mixed.   The new rules permit U.S. military personnel to have a maximum of two cans of beer, or the matching amount of other alcoholic beverages, at restaurants and izakayas, where food is serviced, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily.  Service members are still prohibited from consuming alcohol in bars.

Bar owners aren’t happy about the inequity, and for that matter, neither is the Okinawa Prefectural Government.  The prefecture says it questions the logic of easing the off-base drinking ban, noting that both accidents and alcohol-related incidents are continuing to happen here.    The chief of Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s office, Susumu Matayoshi, is questioning if the off-base drinking ban really has been effective.

The Marine Corps says the six-month ban has been effective, and has curbed incidents by military personnel.  The Marines say easing the no-drinking rule is a plus for the majority of troops who obey the laws, and who were complaining they were being punished for the illicit behavior of a small minority.

Matayoshi is calling for more drastic preventive measures to be put into place, rather than slacking off on the drinking policies.  He disagrees with the Marine Corps, pointing out that the situation really hasn’t gotten better since the no-drinking policy was implemented last December.  He says drunk driving incidents and acts of home invasion by drunken GI’s continue.

The Command initiated the off-base drinking ban in December 2012, a few weeks after the October rape of an Okinawa woman by two U.S. Navy sailors visiting Okinawa in non-duty status fueled heavy criticism by local residents.