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Fleet lifting some drinking restrictions on sailors in Japan

Vice Adm. Scott Swift, U.S. 7th Fleet commander, conducts an all hands call for sailors at Naval Air Facility Misawa and its tenant commands. Swift thanked the sailors for their work and fielded questions on topics ranging from sequestration to curfew policies.

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The U.S. Navy in Japan says it will ease one of its new behavioral restrictions Wednesday, letting sailors once again drink alcohol at home after 10 p.m.

No other changes are being made to the policy: Sailors are still prohibited from consuming alcohol outside their private residences or off-installation between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., regardless of leave or liberty status.

All servicemembers in Japan also have to adhere to an 11 p.m.- 5 a.m. curfew imposed after an Okinawa woman was allegedly gang-raped by two sailors in October. Other restrictions followed when alcohol-related incidents continued.

The update was announced Monday in a message by Vice Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet but won’t go into effect until Wednesday, fleet spokesman Cmdr. Ron Steiner said Tuesday. Swift based his decision on discussions at a Behavior Leadership Summit in Yokosuka earlier this month and subsequent meetings with sailors across Japan.

The commander of Naval Forces Japan, Rear Adm. Dan Cloyd, plans to apply Swift’s update to sailors under his command starting Wednesday as well, U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. Kenneth Marshall wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.

“The clarified policy on the consumption of alcohol was based on Vice Admiral Swift’s confidence that the right leadership focus on how to minimize personal destructive behavior and liberty misconduct that negatively affect mission readiness has been communicated to sailors in 7th Fleet,” Steiner wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.

Swift increased restrictions for 7th Fleet sailors late last month after a USS George Washington sailor was arrested for indecent exposure. He said then that he hoped the rules, which included confining about 800 sailors with alcohol-related incidents on their records to base, would be temporary but that he was prepared to go even further if the misconduct continued.

The updated policy applies to all sailors under Naval Forces Japan command, as well as those assigned to 7th Fleet units, including any ships, submarines or squadrons operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Operations, Steiner and Marshall said. For Marines, it applies to only to those attached to 7th Fleet units.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

burkem@pstripes.osd.mil

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