Gate closures to continue at Marine bases on Okinawa
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 26, 2017
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Gate closures that have led to significant traffic backups on some U.S. military bases on Okinawa in recent weeks will continue for two to three more months due to a shortage of security guards, U.S. military officials said.
The closures have impacted Marine bases Camp Kinser, Camp Courtney and Camp Foster, where traffic backups have led to 45-minute delays in getting off base on some days during rush hours.
At Camp Kinser, Gate 1 (Main Gate) and Gate 5 (South Gate) will remain closed until further notice, according to Marine Corps Installations Pacific’s Facebook page. At Camp Foster, Gate 1B (Sergeant Major Gate), Gate 3 (Fire Station Gate), and Gate 4C (Flea Market Gate) will also remain closed, while Gate 1 (Building 1 Gate) will be open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and closed on weekends.
At Camp Courtney, Gate 3 (South Housing Gate) will only be open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Facebook post said.
The circumstances that led to the closures remain murky. Resources were shifted around after “several Japanese Security Guards recently chose employment elsewhere,” Marine officials said.
However, officials from the Okinawa Chapter of the All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union, the primary labor union that represents gate security guards on Okinawa, said that the guards the Marines referred to are still Japanese government employees working for the U.S. military.
They said 20-25 gate security guards recently took jobs at U.S. Army facilities on Okinawa through internal transfers.
Those guards went to Torii Station, White Beach Naval Facility, a petroleum-storage facility and Naha Military Port, according to the Labor Management Organization for U.S. Forces Employees on Okinawa.
It remains unclear why smaller and less active bases were able to claim such a large number of gate security personnel at one time. The Army footprint in Okinawa is dwarfed by that of the Marine Corps. Marine officials declined to elaborate.
Camp Foster is home to the headquarters for Camp Smedley D. Butler, which encompasses all of the major Marine Corps installations on Okinawa, and Marine Corps Installations Pacific, while Camp Courtney is home to the 3rd Marine Division and III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“Marine Corps Installations Pacific leadership is working diligently to resolve this issue in a timely manner, and to ease the impact of traffic changes on the public,” Marine officials said in a statement released to Stars and Stripes. “The estimated period of impact accounts for normal hiring processes and successful completion of established Japanese Security Guard training curriculum.”