Air Force bans some early-morning alcohol sales in Germany
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 10, 2012
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The Air Force has prohibited the sale of packaged alcohol between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. on installations in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, amid concerns about alcohol-related incidents.
According to a memorandum dated Friday and signed by 86th Airlift Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Charles K. Hyde, the ban affects the sale of all beer, wine and liquor at 24-hour on-base shoppettes. There are two in the Kaiserslautern area: the new “Express” store on Ramstein, and the shoppette on Pulaski Barracks, which is run by the Army.
Hyde, in a separate letter to Army and Air Force Exchange Service regional headquarters, said he had coordinated with the commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern and requested that alcohol sales be suspended at the Pulaski Barracks shoppette during the same hours, to which the Army has agreed.
The policy does not apply to force support squadron establishments, such as the enlisted club, where alcohol is consumed on site, according to the letter.
Base officials at Ramstein could not answer by deadline a question from Stars and Stripes asking why early-morning, packaged alcohol sales on base were being restricted.
But in the letter to AAFES regional headquarters, Hyde said the suspension of alcohol sales after 1 a.m. was “in support of the Air Force Chief of Staff’s initiative to create an environment of dignity, trust, and respect and instill a culture of professionalism and discipline.”
He said he would review the suspension after 90 days “to determine if it is necessary to continue.”
The policy comes as U.S. commanders in Japan have imposed a host of restrictions - from curfews to mandatory buddy systems in an attempt to curtail alcohol-fueled military misconduct, in the wake of the alleged rape of an Okinawa woman by two American sailors in October and a string of other off-base misconduct incidents that followed.
In Germany, no recent incidents of misconduct involving alcohol have rocked relations with the host nation as they have in Japan. But Hyde has expressed concern about alcohol-related incidents in the past.
In a Jan. 13 Air Force news article, Hyde wrote: “alcohol-related incidents are a serious issue for our Airmen, families and local community. ARIs directly affect our ability to conduct our military mission, disrupt unit manning and productivity, and create additional burdens on unit leadership.”
The number of alcohol-related incidents this year appears to be down: There were 409 reported in 2011, and 313 reported this year through November, according to information from base officials at Ramstein.
Patrons shopping Monday afternoon at the 24-hour shoppette on Ramstein had mixed reactions to the restricted-hours alcohol sales policy.
“Anything that’s going to cut back on (alcohol-related incidents), airmen putting themselves in danger or possibly other people, I think it’s a great thing,” said Senior Master Sgt. Terrence White, a contracting manager at Ramstein. “They probably should have done it a while ago.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Roth, an intelligence analyst in Kaiserslautern, said the ban won’t affect him but he questions how effective it will be.
“Even if you stop (late night alcohol sales) here, there are people who are just going to go downtown,” he said. “There are other places to get it. I don’t think ultimately it will solve the problem.”
Randall Rogers, 28, a civilian food court supervisor at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center, said he thinks the policy unfairly hurts personnel who work nights and want to pick up alcohol early in the morning after their shift ends.
“It’s a 24-hour shoppette,” he said. “The stuff is here for us to buy. We should be able to buy it.”
A dorm manager at Ramstein said he heard airmen talking Monday about the new policy, saying they would just purchase alcohol by 1 a.m. to get around the restriction. “All they’re going to do is buy alcohol at 12 o’clock,” he said.