AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Those looking to strike up an early-morning conversation with an American servicemember at a local club had to look elsewhere Sunday.

Citing a recent rash of alcohol-related incidents, Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing, has told all active-duty members that fall under his command to stay at home from 1 to 4:30 every morning.

The curfew, which began at 1 a.m. Sunday, is in effect until further notice.

“The general does not want to see this long term,” said Capt. Jennifer Ferrau, chief of public affairs for the wing. “The leadership will continue to assess the situation and monitor developments.”

Ferrau said the curfew applied to all those in the Air Force who fall under the wing. Army personnel stationed at Aviano are not affected and neither are civilians.

“It’s for all active-duty [Air Force] members, whether they live on or off base,” she said.

Patrols composed of commanders, chiefs and first sergeants are making the rounds of local hangouts to make sure the rule is being followed. No violators were discovered Sunday, Ferrau said. Violators would face disciplinary action at the discretion of their squadron or group commanders.

There are some exceptions to the rule. Those on Information, Tours and Travel trips, on official business, or traveling to home or work between shifts are exempt.

Ferrau said no one incident prompted the curfew, but said the latest — involving an assault at a local club that’s still under investigation — occurred Friday night.

A sign posted an exit to the base indicated Monday that the base had gone 40 days without a DUI. Drunken driving has been a problem since the wing moved to Aviano in 1994.

Under Franklin and his predecessor, Brig. Gen. Robert Yates, the DUI numbers have fallen. The wing set a record by going 73 straight days without a DUI in 2006.

The wing has averaged about two dozen DUI citations a year since a peak of 42 in 2003.

Under Brig. Gen. Mike Worden, the base adopted a program that year that prohibited airmen from visiting businesses that served alcohol if a certain number of accidents and DUIs were reached. Local businesses were not happy and several promised to look closer at how much their customers were drinking.

A program after that gave the base population a day off for every 31 straight days without a DUI. Only a few days off were issued while it lasted.

Curfews rare in Europe

Community-wide curfews are common in countries such as South Korea and Japan, but not as much in Europe. A few places, such as Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, have standard curfews in place year round.

Some local curfews have targeted specific military units or parts of the population (those living on base). And some local communities outside the gates, including Baumholder and Vilseck in Germany, have eyed curfews of their own.

But curfews such as the one in effect at Aviano are rare. Some recent exceptions:

March 2003: Commands throughout Europe tell servicemembers to stay away from clubs and public places in general and not gather together off base in large groups following the outset of the invasion of Iraq. Some specific curfews are imposed.

November 2004: Heidelberg, Germany, issues restrictions to youths, joining a number of other commands around Europe that prohibit those under 18 — but not servicemembers — from straying from home after dark.

May 2006: The 435th Air Base Wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany prohibits airmen from visiting businesses that serve alcohol from 1 to 5 a.m. for two weeks, citing a rash of alcohol-related incidents.

author picture
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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