RAF MILDENHALL – There’s a tiny number on the U.S. Navy Exchange gas coupons used by American drivers in England that most people probably haven’t noticed.

Floating in the middle of the white, check-sized slips is a simple, unexplained “01/07” on the vouchers.

The number refers to the expiration date of many U.S. gas coupons issued at American bases in the U.K., said Marie Waite, general manager for Navy Exchange United Kingdom.

Starting Jan. 31, U.K. gas stations are expected to stop accepting the “01/07” versions, meaning drivers in England will have to trade in their expiring vouchers one-for-one with new versions valid until June 2008.

The new coupons are expected to be available by about the third week of January, and the trade-in period will last until March 3, Waite said.

Trade-ins can be done at any AAFES or NEX coupon selling point, and refunds are only authorized for those with orders that would make trade-ins impractical, she said.

In the U.K., Air Force installations are limited to selling 50 liters of fuel vouchers per person per week and drivers are authorized only to use those vouchers for duty driving. Because servicemembers are technically on duty 24-7 in the U.K., however, the definition of duty driving is somewhat liberal, and essentially only rules out using them on leave or vacation, Waite said.

Navy installations, which have fewer on-base gas pumps with limited operating hours, are allowed to sell up to 200 liters a week per driver, though the average amount sold generally averages between 50 and 100 liters, she said.

Waite also stressed that those fuel purchasing limits are set by local commanders to keep bases within fuel distribution guidelines laid out in an agreement with the British government.

The U.K. program also may be headed for long-term administrative changes as the Navy continues to reduce its presence in England. There are fewer than 1,000 sailors and other Navy personnel left in the U.K.

At RAF Daws Hill, where the program is currently administered, the on-base gas pumps are scheduled to shut down July 7, with the NEX mini mart to follow Aug. 4.

At that point, administration of the voucher program will move to Joint Maritime Facility St. Mawgan, hours to the west in Cornwall, and London-area servicemembers will have to drive to installations such as RAF Croughton or RAF Lakenheath to get coupons or begin receiving them by mail, Waite said.

More information will be available as the mini mart closure approaches, she said.

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