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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The gas station is closed.

Your tank is nearly empty.

And your family plans to pile into the car at 5 a.m. for that much-anticipated ski trip.

No problem, now that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service offers after-hours unattended fueling at the main base service station here.

“You can fuel up your car any time of the day, seven days a week,” said Wayne Hansen, AAFES Misawa general manager.

Misawa rolled out the service earlier this month, becoming the first base in mainland Japan to offer the after-hours option.

In the first week, response was slow, but now that word has spread the pumps get 15 to 20 customers a night, Hansen said.

While filling up his truck Wednesday, Staff Sgt. Brian Hunter was delighted to hear he could swing by for gas any time.

“That’s pretty good, actually,” he said.

“I’ve been here for a couple of months and I’ve always wondered if I was running low and the gas station was closed.”

Only a U.S. credit card or military exchange Star card may be used to pay for either unleaded gasoline or diesel, an option that’s intended to limit the sale of AAFES gas to personnel and families here under the Status of Forces Agreement — a SOFA requirement.

There’s a 15-gallon per sale limit, an added safety feature in the event of an accidental spill, Hansen said.

A request from a community member at a town hall meeting last spring prompted AAFES officials to look into offering the service, Hansen said.

With support from base leadership and the civil engineering and communications squadrons, among others, AAFES was able to make it happen, he said.

A computer technician from the States was flown in to install a software program that links the pumps to the register inside after-hours. Several safety devices were installed.

Barriers were placed around the pumps, so people could not drive into them. And a special phone that dials directly to the fire department was set up in case of a fuel spill, Hansen said.

Base safety officials surveyed the station, and security forces plans periodic checks of the facility, as well.

“Our main concern is that people watch out for one another because it is unattended fueling,” Hansen said, reminding customers not to use cell phones while pumping and to turn off the ignition.

The only time unattended fueling isn’t available is in the 20 to 30 minutes after the station closes each day, the time needed for employees to close down the store and set up the after-hours service.

Direct payment at the pump by credit card also is available during regular business hours: Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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