YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — If it were a movie, U.S. Forces Korea’s new vehicle policy might be called “Death of the Rides.”

By July 15, most E-5s and E-6s throughout South Korea must get rid of their vehicles unless they have special permission from their commanders. The reason: the number of drunken-driving offenders and accidents within the U.S. military.

Of the 77 military drunken-driving offenders in fiscal 2003, 52 were ranked E-5 or E-6, called “high-risk” drivers under 25 years old, according to an internal military memo. The majority of the drunken driving incidents happened off post; of those, 51 percent involved traffic accidents, it said. One resulted in a fatality.

“I’m not sure what an acceptable body count is, but one is too many for me,” U.S. Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Welch said last month in a radio program. “At some point, the command has a responsibility to look at that.”

The command estimates about 1,800 licensed servicemembers in those ranks have vehicles, according to USFK. The new policy does not affect civilians or contractors.

In June 2003, the military hit a high of 10 accidents related to drunken driving, the memo said.

The rule, which took effect April 22, means hundreds of vehicle may be taken off base roads. Scooters are included in the policy.

A person who declined to give his name, citing fear of command retribution, but who identified himself as an Air Force E-6, called Stars and Stripes this week to complain that people advance in rank more slowly in the Air Force than in other services. Therefore, he argued, E-5s and E-6s are older and more responsible than equivalent ranks in other branches. The man said he has been in the service for 17 years.

A servicemember may be allowed to keep a personal vehicle with the approval of a commander of O-5 rank or above and approval of the area commander of rank O-6 or above. Those in command-sponsored billets must have their family members in South Korea to retain a vehicle, according to the policy.

Those servicemembers who shipped a vehicle to South Korea under valid orders will be allowed to retain their license under the policy until they rotate, provided they meet insurance and licensing requirements. No further exemptions will be given after July 15, the policy states.

E-1s through E-4s, and all soldiers in the 2nd Infantry Division, have not been allowed to own vehicles.

Abandoning a vehicle, either in town or on base, before changing duty stations from South Korea is against USFK rules. Those who abandon vehicles, base officials said, will be tracked to their new duty stations and charged $736 for towing and storage.

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