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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The major story for Okinawa in 2006 was the agreement signed May 1 by the United States and Japan to realign U.S. troops in Japan.

Signed after seven months of intense negotiations, the agreement calls for sweeping change in the posture of American troops on Okinawa. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in the middle of densely populated Ginowan, is to be closed by 2014 and replaced with a new facility to be built on Camp Schwab and reclaimed land in Oura Bay, on Okinawa’s rural northeast coast.

Also, some 8,000 Marines and their families are to move to Guam, where headquarters for the III Marine Expeditionary Force will relocate. The two projects will enable the eventual closing of the Naha Military Port, Camp Kinser, Camp Lester and part of Camp Foster.

However, the Camp Schwab part of the plan ran into opposition by Okinawa lawmakers before the ink was dry.

Former Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine opposed the new facility, claiming it would be too close to adjacent villages. And when he decided not to run for re-election in November, the new airport became a key campaign issue.

The election’s winner, Okinawa businessman and former vice governor Hirokazu Nakaima, said he did not approve of the plan to build two runways on Camp Schwab, but was willing to negotiate changes to the plan.

Early in December, the national government said it might be able to shorten the construction period by a few years, coming close to Nakaima’s call to close MCAS Futenma within three years.

Here’s a chronology of other key events from 2006:

Jan. 7

A 61-year-old Okinawa cab driver is robbed at knifepoint on Camp Foster. It is the first of several such cabbie muggings committed by Americans.

While local police and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigate the crime, a 23-year-old recently discharged Marine, Errol Jackson, is arrested by Okinawa police on Jan. 12 for robbing a cab driver in Okinawa city.

Jackson is tried in a Japanese court and sentenced in April to two years and 10 months in prison.

In late January, two Marines, Lance Cpls. Henry D. Morgan, 20, and Reginald Lowery, 21, are arrested for the Camp Foster robbery. They also are tried in a Japanese court and sentenced in July to three years and two years and six months, respectively, at hard labor in a Japanese prison.

Feb. 20

More than 300 Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit assist in the effort to rescue 250 students and teachers trapped inside an elementary school buried in a mudslide in the Philippines.

March 5

Thousands of Okinawans attend a rally in Ginowan protesting the plan to move Marine air operations to northeastern Okinawa. Media reports peg the crowd number at 35,000. U.S. officials say the number was exaggerated and less than 10,000 actually attended the rally.

March 20

Air Force Master Sgt. Ulysses Dotson of the 733rd Air Mobility Squadron, Kadena Air Base, is sentenced to two months’ confinement and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a promotion test cheating scandal in Germany in 2004.

March 24

Dag Allen Thompson, 36, a salesman for Exchange New Car Sales on Kadena Air Base and a former Marine, is sentenced to nine years in prison for raping two Okinawa women. During the trial, which lasted more than a year, evidence showed his DNA matched the DNA in semen recovered at the rape scene of a 21-year-old Chatan woman in her home in August 2004 and the sexual attack of a 27-year-old Naha woman in June 1998. The Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court denied his appeal in July.

April 28

Tech. Sgt. Theodore Mirich, 39, a flight engineer with the 33rd Rescue Squadron on Kadena Air Base and a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism in combat in Afghanistan, is sentenced to five years in prison and a bad-conduct discharge after pleading guilty at a court-martial to three counts of child pornography and soliciting sex from a 13-year-old girl.

May 27

Okinawa-based Marines and sailors are rushed to Indonesia on a humanitarian relief mission after an earthquake on the island of Java kills more than 5,800 people. The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s 172-member medical assistance team sets up a mobile surgical and shock trauma center in a village soccer stadium and treats more than 2,000 patients injured in the 6.3-magnitude quake.

Meanwhile, Marine Corps KC-130 Hercules aircraft from the Okinawa-based 1st Marine Aircraft Wing delivers more than 11 tons of medical supplies to aid in the recovery efforts.

July 1

A Navy hospitalman, Seaman Leslie Woods, 20, is sentenced to 30 months confinement and a dishonorable discharge for using government computers to download child pornography. Woods used computers at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa to scan Web sites containing explicit photographs.

Sept. 10

The drinking age for Marines in Japan is lowered to 20 — the age a person is officially recognized as an adult in Japan. The new policy reverses a change in the drinking age put into effect in January 1999 in the wake of a series of alcohol-related incidents.

Sept. 14

Protesters temporarily halt an archaeological survey on Camp Schwab that is required before construction can begin on new barracks. The barracks would replace buildings that will have to be razed to make way for a new air facility to replace MCAS Futenma.

Oct. 10

About 75 anti-base activists gather at the U.S. Army’s Tengan Pier in Uruma to block delivery of Patriot missiles to a new U.S. Army battery on Kadena Air Base. The next day, a large contingent of Okinawa police break up the protesters’ camp and allow trucks hauling 10 large shipping containers to proceed to Kadena. The U.S. Army’s 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion (PAC-3) is activated on Nov. 30.

Oct. 25

Bryant White, 22, a former airman living with his Japanese wife in Okinawa city, says two acquaintances cut his throat and robbed him in a field on Hamahiga Island. Navy spouse Darian Preston Daniels and Marine Sgt. Michael Avinger, 30, of Camp Schwab, are arrested and charged with robbery involving a serious injury. An indictment also charges the two with conspiring to kill White and stealing his wallet, his passport, a cell phone, a wristwatch and other items. A trial date is pending.

Nov. 18

A freak wind gust during a series of thunderstorms injures three Marines, damages several buildings and upturns 21 cars on Camp Schwab, striking near the Post Exchange.

Nov. 30

Japanese defense officials confirm that information about U.S. and Japanese military activities in the Middle East and photographs of anti-terrorist training conducted at Naha Air Base were broadcast by mistake on the Internet through a Japan Air Self-Defense Force officer’s personal computer.

Dec. 4

A judge in the Philippines sentences Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, 21, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, to 40 years in prison for raping a 23-year-old Filipina on Nov. 1, 2005, during liberty at Subic Bay. Three other Marines, who allegedly cheered Smith on while he attacked the drunken woman in the back of a van, are acquitted and returned to Okinawa, where they face charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Dec. 7

U.S. Navy sailor Seaman Jack Valentine, 20, dies six days after a steam pipe ruptures in an engineering space aboard the USS Frank Cable, based on Guam. Five other sailors were injured, some severely.

Dec. 18

Marines from Okinawa land on the Philippine island of Basco with 2,200 pounds of supplies including food, health-care items, clothes and toys, just in time for the holiday season. The gifts are part of the annual “Operation Goodwill Delivery,” which was slated to deliver about $8,000 in goodwill items to charities in northern Luzon.


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