Alcohol Ban Lifted for US Troops in Japan; Curfew Still in Effect

A beer aisle is blocked off at the Navy Exchange at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, on June 6, 2016. TYLER HLAVAC/STARS AND STRIPES
A beer aisle is blocked off at the Navy Exchange at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, on June 6, 2016. TYLER HLAVAC/STARS AND STRIPES

After more than three weeks under a restrictive policy that banned drinking and suspended off-base liberty, U.S. troops in Japan are getting some privileges restored.

As of Tuesday, military commands in Japan announced they were lifting the total ban on alcohol consumption and resuming normal liberty, with some restrictions left in place.

According to an announcement from Marine Corps Forces Japan, Marines and sailors below the rank of E-3 will still have to observe a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. All in ranks E-5 and below who are on a temporary additional duty, leave or deployed status in Japan have the same curfew restriction

Those in grades E-4 and E-5 who are not in a TAD, leave or deployment status have a curfew from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., according to the announcement.

The severe restrictions were put in place after a 61-year-old Japanese man in Okinawa was killed when a Marine collided with his car in what appeared to be an incident involving alcohol. The Marine, identified by multiple media outlets as 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Nicholas James McLean, was arrested by local police.

McLean was indicted Monday on charges of negligent driving causing death and driving under the influence of alcohol, according to a Stars and Stripes report.

It's common practice for liberty and off-base privileges to be suspended after a public incident involving alcohol or harm to a local citizen in Okinawa and Japan, where sensitivities around the U.S. troop presence in the region remain high.

Since the deadly car crash, however, there has been at least one high-profile incident in which a U.S. service member was recognized for making a positive impact in the community.

On Dec. 1, Marine Master Sgt. Hector Trujillo pulled over on his way to work to help an Okinawan citizen who had been in a car crash. While he was trying to protect the other individual, Trujillo was hit by another car, resulting in a fractured skull and spine and neck injuries, according to an NBC report. He was airlifted to San Diego, where he is currently being treated.

According to the announcement from Marine Corps Forces Japan, alcohol consumption under the new, more lenient restrictions is still prohibited between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless it takes place in an off-base home. All Marines and sailors are required to clear out of local bars and clubs serving alcohol before 11 p.m., and a "liberty buddy" is required for some.

All service members in ranks E-1 to E-3 must have a liberty buddy, and those in ranks E-4 to E-5 must pair up if off-base consumption of alcohol is planned.

Commanders within Marine Corps Forces Japan still have the ability to implement more restrictive rules if they choose, according to the announcement.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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