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Commander adjusts liberty regulations

Date Posted: 2008-09-30

Lieutenant Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, the commanding general of III MEF and MCBJ, has adjusted liberty regulations for Marines and Sailors in Japan.
A new Liberty Campaign Order, signed by Lt. Gen. Zilmer Sept. 29, stipulates that red liberty card holders must observe a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew and are required to have a liberty buddy during off-base liberty. However, Gold liberty card holders have no curfew. All III MEF/MCBJ service members are prohibited from consuming alcohol in off-base public venues after 2:00 a.m. These changes come after a series of actions taken by U.S. Marine Corps leadership to improve the conduct of service members during off-base liberty on Okinawa.
As a result of the alleged rape of an Okinawan girl by a U.S. Marine on Feb. 10, 2008, all Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) personnel on Okinawa were limited aboard U.S. military facilities or their off-base residence from Feb. 20 through March 3. This “period of reflection” allowed commanders and all service members an opportunity to further review procedures and orders that govern the discipline and conduct of all U.S. service members serving in Okinawa.
Following that review, Zilmer implemented a curfew for all service members, which limited service members to U.S. military installations or the off-base residences of SOFA personnel during curfew hours. In addition, service members were restricted from consuming alcohol off base, except within the confines of the off-base residences of SOFA personnel.
In addition, Zilmer ordered changes to better educate Marines and sailors to prevent misconduct. Among the changes made were an expansion of uniformed courtesy patrols, a new liberty card policy, checks of outgoing vehicles at U.S. Marine Corps installations and additions to the orientation and education seminar that all newcomer’s must attend.
Expanded courtesy patrols commenced April 4 in the vicinity of Henoko, Kin, Kadena Gate 2, American Village, Kitamae and Futenma, locations that are frequented by service members on liberty. Courtesy patrols have been conducted for several years to provide assistance, leadership and guidance to U.S. service members in order to deter and minimize off-base incidents resulting from misconduct. They were implemented with the cooperation and concurrence of the Cooperative Working Team.
To reduce the number of off-duty liberty incidents and promote positive relations with our host nation and its citizens, Zilmer also implemented a change in the liberty card policy on April 5, which required all service members serving in Japan assigned to Marine Corps Bases Japan or III Marine Expeditionary Force to carry liberty cards during off-base liberty. This liberty card policy requires all E1-E3 service members and all red liberty card holders assigned to MCBJ or III MEF serving in Japan to have a liberty buddy for off-base liberty.
Personnel departing Marine Corps installations during late hours on weekends and holidays are also routinely required to show their liberty card and military identification at the gates to ensure that all personnel abide by the new liberty card policy and curfew restrictions.
The Newcomer Orientation Welcome Aboard seminar, which includes classes on Japanese culture, customs and courtesies, local laws, the SOFA, Japanese dialect, employment and education opportunities, safety issues on Okinawa, and more, was lengthened beginning in April from four hours to eight hours, and subject material was expanded in order to better educate Marines, sailors, civilians and family members.
In addition to these changes, the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conducted cultural awareness seminars on Marine Corps Base Camp Butler to educate U.S. service members and their families on Okinawan history and culture. This program is also an initiative of the Cooperative Working Team.
“Since the beginning of the period of reflection, leaders at all levels have worked continuously to reaffirm the trust, confidence and rapport we enjoy with the local community. The programs and policies implemented since then have been effective in reducing accidents and incidents involving U.S. service members,” Zilmer said. “Although the liberty hours have been adjusted, we will not cease our efforts to be good neighbors to our Okinawan hosts and to fulfill our role in the defense of Japan under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation.”

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