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Commanders limiting alcohol sales, consumption

Dec. 16, 2012 - 10:33AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 16, 2012 - 10:33AM  |  
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Col. Brian Beers, 18th Maintenance Group commander, briefs airmen during a commander's call at Kadena Air Base, on Nov. 2. Kadena leadership held commanders' calls to explain how off-base incidents can affect the relationship with locals on Okinawa and to explain the tightened curfew policy.
Col. Brian Beers, 18th Maintenance Group commander, briefs airmen during a commander's call at Kadena Air Base, on Nov. 2. Kadena leadership held commanders' calls to explain how off-base incidents can affect the relationship with locals on Okinawa and to explain the tightened curfew policy. (Staff Sgt. Laszlo Babocsi / Air Force)
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U.S. airmen in Japan are facing a loss of liberty after a series of alcohol-related incidents have enraged locals, and now similar limits on booze are spreading to other areas, as well.

Troops in Okinawa must abide by a curfew and a prohibition on alcohol sales and consumption following several incidents involving American troops and locals. Now a commander in Germany has issued a directive related to alcohol sales there, too.

Violating these orders is subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with varying charges and punishments, said Lt. Col. Dave Honchul, spokesman for U.S. Forces Japan.

"I wouldn't want to state specific punishments for violations, because, as in all military justice cases, each case is weighed upon its own merit for appropriate disposition," Honchul said.

Here's what you need to know:

Stay inside. In October, U.S. Forces Japan imposed a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on all troops in the country, requiring that they stay in their homes, on base or wherever they are staying. The curfew came after multiple incidents involving troops, including the alleged rape of a Japanese woman by U.S. Marines and an airman allegedly breaking into a local home and assaulting a teenage boy who was watching TV.

Strict rules on Okinawa. The crackdown goes even further on Okinawa, home to Kadena Air Base and about 7,500 airmen. Earlier this month, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, the Okinawa area coordinator for U.S. Forces Japan, set a new policy that bars troops on Okinawa from buying alcohol on base from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily, and prohibits them from buying or consuming alcohol anywhere off base except inside their own homes.

Spreading elsewhere. On Dec. 7, Brig. Gen. Charles Hyde, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, asked a store at Ramstein and a shoppette at Pulaski Barracks to stop the sale of alcohol between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. The policy was "in support of the Air Force Chief of Staff's initiative to create an environment of dignity, trust, and respect and instill a culture of professionalism and discipline," Hyde wrote in a memo to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service's regional headquarters.

How long? The new rules in Japan are meant to be temporary, but "we won't speculate how long the commander deems it necessary," said Honchul, the U.S. Forces Japan spokesman. At Ramstein, commanders will review the alcohol restrictions in 90 days, according to Hyde's letter to AAFES.

Growing concern about drinking. Across the services, commanders are cracking down on alcohol consumption for troops abroad and in the U.S. Air Education and Training Command began surprise breath tests in October on trainees who are under 21 and staying in dorms. The Marine Corps will conduct random breath tests beginning in January on officers and enlisted personnel, mostly as they arrive for work. The Navy is soon introducing mandatory breath tests at every command, requiring all sailors to demonstrate they're sober when they report to work.

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