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Off-base drinking ban imposed for Okinawa servicemembers

CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — Servicemembers on Okinawa have been banned from drinking alcohol anywhere off base and will be subject to breathalyzer tests at entrance gates following yet another booze-related incident, the III Marine Expeditionary Force announced Saturday.

Military drivers with a blood alcohol content over 0.03 percent will not be allowed to leave base, and passengers and pedestrians also may be tested for intoxication and sent home if over the limit, the service said in a Facebook post. The drinking limit is in line with Japanese law, which is stricter than what drivers are used to in the United States.

The new ban also tightens the supply of alcohol from on-base establishments by barring sales at clubs and shoppettes after 10 p.m.

The ban comes as U.S. forces in Japan have struggled for over a month to stop drunken misbehavior and crime off base following the alleged gang-rape of an Okinawan woman by two sailors. Despite an 11 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, a steady string of incidents has continued to embarrass the services and stoke Japanese resentment.

On Friday night, Okinawa police arrested a U.S. Marine from Camp Kinser on suspicion of drunken driving after he crashed his car into three other vehicles, slightly injuring two people, the Kyodo news agency reported. Police told Kyodo they detected alcohol on his breath.

Several other servicemembers have been arrested or charged for drunken crimes in recent weeks, including trespassing, vandalism and bodily injury.

The services have been grasping at different ways to strengthen the curfew and decrease such crimes, such as more courtesy patrols and the 7th Fleet’s ban against drinking after 10 p.m., even at home.

The commander of U.S. Forces Japan had just announced a new policy Friday morning requiring troops to be accompanied by a “battle buddy” when going to off-base bars and other places that serve liquor.

The Marine arrested Friday night was not violating the curfew, but it was unclear whether he was accompanied or if he was subject to the “battle buddy” policy at the time.

trittent@pstripes.osd.mil

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