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US Forces Japan Revises Liberty Policy; Curfew Reduced by an Hour

Roppongi Crossing divides one of Tokyo's busiest entertainment disctricts into quarters.Servicemembers are prohibited from being here after midnight under the current curfew policy. Eric Guzman/Stars and Stripes
Roppongi Crossing divides one of Tokyo's busiest entertainment disctricts into quarters.Servicemembers are prohibited from being here after midnight under the current curfew policy. Eric Guzman/Stars and Stripes

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Forces Japan revised its liberty policy Wednesday, allowing servicemembers to stay out a little later starting next month.

The current policy requires servicemembers E-5 and below to be back on base or in a private residence or hotel room between midnight and 5 a.m. It is unpopular but credited with cutting off-base incidents after two visiting U.S. sailors raped an Okinawa woman in October 2012.

The updated policy, signed Wednesday by USFJ commander Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella and effective Dec. 9, will allow troops to stay out as late as 1 a.m., although all personnel, regardless of rank, are still banned from drinking in public off base between midnight and 5 a.m.

The change also removes stricter rules for troops on Okinawa, where military personnel have been banned from drinking at off-base bars and limited to two alcoholic drinks with meals at local restaurants.

In addition, lower-ranked personnel on temporary duty here for less than 150 days, who had been required to have a "liberty buddy" while travelling off base after 7 p.m., will only need one after 10 p.m.

"Authorized commanders may grant individual, event-by-event exceptions of limited duration to the liberty buddy and curfew provisions for specific circumstances," USFJ spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said.

Commanders can also impose more restrictive provisions or additional measures as necessary due to mission requirements, he said.

The changes come after what Hoffman described as "a careful and thorough review across all the services and commands in Japan on what constitutes an appropriate baseline liberty policy for U.S. military members serving here."

Before any military members are granted liberty, they must undergo sexual assault response and Japanese cultural training, he said.

"Commanders will ensure their servicemembers are educated on responsible drinking practices," he said.

Since the liberty policy was imposed, there has been a substantial drop in the number of incidents of misconduct, he said.

Statistics released by the military and the Japanese government earlier this year showed that 32 off-base crimes were committed by U.S. personnel -- including dependents and civilian workers -- on Okinawa in 2013, a drop from the average of 56 annually over the past decade.

The highest priority of the liberty policy is safeguarding host-nation relations while maximizing quality of life for servicemembers and their families, Hoffman said.

"We have been working with the government of Japan and local authorities throughout this process and have consulted them many times," he said. "They are in agreement with our efforts and fully support what we are doing."

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Forces Japan revised its liberty policy Wednesday, allowing servicemembers to stay out a little later starting next month.

The current policy requires servicemembers E-5 and below to be back on base or in a private residence or hotel room between midnight and 5 a.m. It is unpopular but credited with cutting off-base incidents after two visiting U.S. sailors raped an Okinawa woman in October 2012.

The updated policy, signed Wednesday by USFJ commander Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella and effective Dec. 9, will allow troops to stay out as late as 1 a.m., although all personnel, regardless of rank, are still banned from drinking in public off base between midnight and 5 a.m.

The change also removes stricter rules for troops on Okinawa, where military personnel have been banned from drinking at off-base bars and limited to two alcoholic drinks with meals at local restaurants.

In addition, lower-ranked personnel on temporary duty here for less than 150 days, who had been required to have a "liberty buddy" while travelling off base after 7 p.m., will only need one after 10 p.m.

"Authorized commanders may grant individual, event-by-event exceptions of limited duration to the liberty buddy and curfew provisions for specific circumstances," USFJ spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said.

Commanders can also impose more restrictive provisions or additional measures as necessary due to mission requirements, he said.

The changes come after what Hoffman described as "a careful and thorough review across all the services and commands in Japan on what constitutes an appropriate baseline liberty policy for U.S. military members serving here."

Before any military members are granted liberty, they must undergo sexual assault response and Japanese cultural training, he said.

"Commanders will ensure their servicemembers are educated on responsible drinking practices," he said.

Since the liberty policy was imposed, there has been a substantial drop in the number of incidents of misconduct, he said.

Statistics released by the military and the Japanese government earlier this year showed that 32 off-base crimes were committed by U.S. personnel -- including dependents and civilian workers -- on Okinawa in 2013, a drop from the average of 56 annually over the past decade.

The highest priority of the liberty policy is safeguarding host-nation relations while maximizing quality of life for servicemembers and their families, Hoffman said.

"We have been working with the government of Japan and local authorities throughout this process and have consulted them many times," he said. "They are in agreement with our efforts and fully support what we are doing."

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