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U.S. Forces Japan commander promises troops’ ‘unwavering professionalism’

Date Posted: 2008-04-18

A rash of high-profile crimes involving American servicemen and dependents has given Lt. Gen. Edward Rice Jr., commanding general of US Forces Japan, a welcome he’d rather not have had.

Rice has stepped forward to assure Japanese leaders that “the highest standards of behavior” will be demonstrated by the men and women under his command, and promised the Japanese news media they’ll see “unwavering professionalism” from them. He told the Japan National Press Club “The vast majority of tens of thousands of service personnel and their families … conduct themselves in a way we are proud of, and I know that.”

While making the vow to the media, Rice also reminded soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines they shouldn’t make assumptions about their assignment in Japan, or take anything for granted. He encouraged personnel to build a “two way relationship” with their hosts, and urged them to embrace Japanese culture.

Rice took command in February at a time when headlines were screaming negative American sentiments over the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by a38-year-old Marine here on Okinawa, and the robbery of a taxi driver by a sailor in Yokusuka in March.

The three-star Air Force general took the opportunity to lobby for understanding about the “modest level of money” contributed by the Japanese government that goes for morale and welfare facilities. The arrangement whereby Japan contributes ¥141.6 billion for utilities and personnel stationing costs is under fire by opposition leaders, including the Democratic Party of Japan, which complains some of spending is unwarranted. The DPJ contends money spent on Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities such as golf courses, bowling alleys and clubs is wasteful, but Rice maintains they’re essential elements to stationing costs.

He called the spending on 50,000 troops assigned to Japan an “investment” for Japan’s safety and regional stability. Rice pointed out that roughly 25,000 non-military employees are on U.S. bases, with the special Japan agreement covering the personnel costs for more than 23,000 of them. More than 6,000 of those Japanese employees work in various MWR facilities.

While Rice was addressing the media, Okinawa mayors were also in Tokyo, voicing their complaints over the way crimes committed by GI’s are being handled. A group of 70 called on the Prime Minister’s office and the U.S. Embassy, demanding changes to the Status of Forces Agreement.

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