Investigation underway after airman fails to report back to Okinawa-based unit
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 17, 2019
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Air Force is investigating after an airman failed to report back to his unit at Kadena Air Base.
The unnamed airman — in his 20s, according to the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper — departed Okinawa on April 8 and has not yet returned to Japan, Kadena’s 18th Wing said in a statement Wednesday.
The airman is considered neither armed nor dangerous, according to the statement. Law enforcement agencies are supporting the investigation, although the statement did not identify the agencies involved.
Base officials notified Japanese authorities of the situation on Friday, an Okinawa prefectural spokesman said. The status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Japan states that if the airman is found in Japan, local authorities could detain and turn him over to the U.S. military.
“The 18th Wing takes the safety of its personnel and the safety of local residents very seriously and is taking all appropriate measures to address this matter,” the statement said.
In December, an unidentified airman assigned to Kadena’s 353rd Special Operations Group was found in a vehicle in the Uza neighborhood of Yomitan Village with a loaded Beretta M9 pistol after going AWOL from the base. That airman was arrested and subsequently returned to the U.S. to seek mental health treatment.