CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Military retirees no longer can sign their friends onto U.S. Marine bases on Okinawa and mainland Japan.
Marine Corps officials contend they’re merely enforcing a Marine Corps Base Japan order in effect since 2003. They said military retirees can sign in only their spouses and children.
"There has been no change to the MCBJ Order for retired U.S. military personnel," Marine spokesman 2nd Lt. Lucas Burke said in a written response to a query about the April 2 move.
"Non-SOFA status retirees are authorized access to include their immediate family members," he said. "However, there is no stipulation in the order that permits non-SOFA status retirees to sponsor other guests outside their immediate families onto military installations."
"For 20 years, I have been able to bring our family members on base to bowl, eat or go shopping," said Ray Welch, a retired captain who is married to an Okinawan.
"How can they say that they’re just following the order when everything changed on [April 2]?" he said. "Am I being told that a 19-year-old base employee can sponsor people on base, but a retired combat veteran of 23 years of service to his country is no longer allowed to sign on family members and friends?"
On Thursday, Burke said he did not know why retirees were allowed to sign their friends onto the bases in the past.
Air Force and Army officials on Okinawa said military retirees can still sign in guests — even if they’re not immediate family — at their bases.