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OKINAWA — Servicemembers in Japan who want to wed can’t just stop at fulfilling Japanese legal requirements. The U.S. military has its rules, as well.

Regardless of rank and of whether the partner is another servicemember, a civilian or a non-U.S. citizen, Marines and sailors on Okinawa must attend a two-day pre-marriage workshop, said Kimberly Leslie, a marriage counselor at the Marine Corps Community Services’ Personal Services Center on Camp Foster.

The PSC coordinates the workshops, which Leslie said cover a range of topics — including finances, communication and Japanese marriage law — designed to build successful marriages.

Marines and sailors also must submit a marriage package through their chain of command for approval, said Gunnery Sgt. Charles Albrecht, a Marine spokesman.

These requirements are to ensure that servicemembers stationed overseas understand and comply with the host-nation laws governing marriage, Albrecht said.

Added Leslie: “It’s not about trying to control our Marines and sailors; it’s about helping them be successful.”

When a servicemember comes to the workshop, she said, “We know that you’re in love; everything is ‘goo-goo-gah’ — but it takes a lot of work to make a successful marriage.”

One of the workshop take-aways is a guide to marriage on Okinawa that walks a servicemember through paperwork requirements and offices to visit and provides information including a list of local translators.

Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin, a Kadena Air Base spokesman, said airmen there also have some additional requirements to fulfill before they can marry. They must complete a pre-marriage checklist that includes a medical check-up and a legal briefing.

The briefing covers the responsibilities of supporting dependents and, if necessary, U.S. immigration and naturalization laws, Loftin said.

Commanders also talk with airmen marrying local nationals to ensure they understand their benefits and responsibilities, he said.

Unit commanders encourage all airmen also to take advantage of the premarital counseling offered by military chaplains, Loftin said.

Attending premarital classes or counseling is not mandatory for soldiers, but Army Community Services provides numerous classes and counseling for newlyweds, said U.S. Army Japan spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Maxfield.

Capt. Kelvin Todd, an Army chaplain, said chaplains provide secular and nonsecular premarital counseling that soldiers are encouraged to attend. Couples are more likely to listen to and benefit from premarital counseling if it’s voluntary, he said.

Whether it’s required or not, “every couple should seek out premarital counseling,” he said.


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