YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Some U.S. troops in Japan can ring in 2013 outside the gates thanks to a one-night-only New Year’s Eve curfew extension granted Tuesday by the top U.S. military commander in Japan.
Those on Okinawa, however, must still abide by the 11 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, imposed in October after two sailors allegedly gang-raped a woman on Okinawa.
The exemption allows troops on the mainland to stay out until 1 a.m. “to enjoy the arrival of the New Year with their Japanese hosts” although they must stop drinking by 12:30 a.m., Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella wrote in a memo to all military personnel in Japan.
En route to Misawa Air Base last week, Angelella told Stars and Stripes that he and his commanders were “discussing the curfew” as the year neared its end.
“A new year is usually the time for a fresh start,” he said, although there was no indication in his memo about the curfew’s long-term fate.
Angelella ordered the curfew “to demonstrate to our Japanese hosts that we’re serious about our relationship” and to “jolt” servicemembers into being good neighbors, Angelella said last week.
A handful of subsequent arrests prompted other commanders to clamp down even further on troops. The Navy, for example, now requires all sailors to be at home by 11 p.m. And on Okinawa, servicemembers cannot buy or consume alcohol off base.
Angelella augmented the curfew last month when he implemented the “buddy program,” requiring all servicemembers to team up for outings to places where alcohol is sold. It remains in effect New Year’s Eve.
“This is the USFJ baseline,” Lt. Col. Dave Honchul, USFJ spokesman, told Stars and Stripes. “Commanders have the option of making more restrictive policies. Servicemembers obviously need to follow the more restrictive policies.”