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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The blanket curfew on Kadena Air Base servicemembers and civilians in place since July 9 ended Thursday and gave way to a new Air Force servicemember-only liberty card program aimed mainly at junior airmen.

The program, similar to one the Marines introduced in 2004, automatically restricts mostly airmen 1st class and below to base between midnight and 5 a.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends.

However, the program also allows commanders considerable latitude to grant — or revoke — unlimited restrictions for all ranks.

The decision to limit mostly junior airmen was based on data collected by Kadena’s Alcohol Task Force. Among other statistics, the data showed that almost all of early 2005’s driving- under-the-influence offenders ranked either as senior airmen or below.

“When you look at the demographics of people in trouble, that’s where the predominance of our problems are,” said Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, 18th Wing commander.

Jouas said the program is more than just a response to the recent charges against Kadena Staff Sgt. Armando Valdez, 27, whom police said had photographed and touched a partially unclad 10-year-old Okinawan girl.

“We want to develop the right habit pattern and the right self-discipline so that [junior enlisted airmen] can grow into better NCOs,” he said.

Airmen who receive blue liberty cards will be restricted to any one of Okinawa’s bases during curfew hours while airmen who receive silver cards will have unrestricted liberty, base officials said.

Airmen with blue cards who show up at base gates past curfew hours will have their names written down at the gate. Their squadron then will be notified.

Airmen who stay out past curfew hours in the nearby Gate Two Street entertainment district could encounter a base courtesy patrol, said Command Chief Master Sgt. Clinton Camac.

“Courtesy patrols do have the authority to ask for proof of card status during the time of the curfew,” Camac said.

Generally composed of three senior NCOs or company-grade officers, the patrols can request identification and write down names but cannot force anyone to present ID or drag anyone back to base, Camac said.

The program may see small changes if necessary, Jouas said.

It will be judged largely on whether late-night incidents decrease, he said. However, he added, the number of servicemembers referred for alcohol-abuse counseling and other alcohol-related problems also will determine whether the program is successful.

Jouas said he would welcome help from local bar owners in keeping servicemembers from drinking to excess.

Swing-shift servicemembers working from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. could be affected most by the program, Jouas said. However, swing-shift workers are a small fraction of servicemembers and normally do not work on Friday and Saturday night, he said.

How it works ...

¶ Airmen 1st class (E-3) and below will all start with blue liberty cards that restrict them to any one of Okinawa’s bases from midnight to 5 a.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

¶ Commanders must make immediate determinations on which cards their senior airmen (E-4) will receive.

¶ All NCOs and officers will be granted unrestricted silver cards unless a commander decides to revoke that status.

¶ Airmen of all ranks who have served at least six months at their first duty station are eligible to be granted silver liberty cards pending commander approval.

¶ Kadena airmen who remain on Okinawa during leave still must adhere to restrictions.

¶ Airmen serving temporary duty on Okinawa will be issued liberty cards.

¶ Restricted airmen are allowed to stay on other bases, such as Camp Foster or Okuma, during curfew hours. However, restricted airmen in transit to another base or elsewhere during curfew hours must have command approval.

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