SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Newly arrived sailors serving the U.S. 7th Fleet holding the rank of E-4 and below now have their after-hours activities regulated by the new Liberty Card Program outlined in an instruction released Thursday.
The program overrides the Exceptional Sailor Program primarily by doing away with the term “exceptional sailor,” said 7th Fleet Command Master Chief Petty Officer Tom Howard from his office onboard the USS Blue Ridge, which is in port at Sasebo Naval Base.
He said the term “exceptional sailor” was dropped from the liberty regulations because “everybody that voluntarily joins our enlisted service is an exceptional sailor.”
The program is “specifically for personnel ranked E-4 and below who’ve recently reported to the 7th Fleet and need a period of time to acclimate themselves to the various cultures they are going to have to deal with now,” Howard said.
New sailors to the 7th Fleet area of operations, he said, will receive a white liberty card, meaning they must be back to their ship, barracks or off-base residence by midnight.
A green card indicates a one-time trial period not to exceed 90 days between receiving a white or blue card. It allows a sailor to return to base by midnight, and to their ship or barracks by 2 a.m. Those residing off base must be at their residence by midnight.
“We’ve changed this to reflect that there will be no alcohol consumption between midnight and 2 a.m.,” he said. “We want to make sure that green card sailors are not going to base clubs during that time to consume more alcohol.”
After a period of time “designated by the chief of staff or the commanding officer,” he said, “mature sailors who’ve had time to acclimate … based on their performance,” can receive the blue card, allowing liberty past midnight or overnight.
He said 7th Fleet studies show that the majority of liberty incidents occur when sailors are out past midnight. “And without throwing out an actual percentage, almost all of them have something to do with the overindulgence of alcohol,” he said.
Howard said the program is unrelated to a general order implemented Thursday by Commander, Naval Forces Japan, cutting off Yokosuka-based Navy personnel, civilians and dependents from late-night drinking.
In addition, he said, the program announcement is unrelated to recent accusations that sailors in the Yokosuka area have committed alcohol-related crimes.
“This is strictly part of our annual review of the instructions. We started a rewrite of this back in November,” Howard said.