Bases work to cut interaction
Stars and Stripes March 12, 2008
Fewer overseas housing and education options for military families may increase interaction between teens and servicemembers, some officials say.
“Unlike the States, you work in the same place you live,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Mills, the military justice department head of Yokosuka’s Region Legal Service Office. “Here we have kids on the same base where sailors work and where families don’t always have the option to live farther away.”
Yokosuka base spokeswoman Michelle Stewart spoke from her personal experience as a Marine and a mother formerly stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.
“There’s more mingling,” Stewart said.
Maj. John Hutcheson of Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base’s 18th Wing doesn’t agree.
“The challenges here are not significantly different than at CONUS (continental U.S.) installations,” he said.
Even though there are no specific policies that prohibit airmen and high school students from interacting, all incoming servicemembers are briefed on the age on consent and the consequences of violating it, he said.
Overseas dating differs but that hasn’t been cause for alarm at Misawa, said Lt. Col. Randon Draper, a U.S. Air Force Staff Judge Advocate.
“Despite the fact that there may not be the same dating pool for young military members stationed overseas like at most stateside installations, we have not observed a widespread concern with Misawa military members crossing the line in their associations with dependant youth,” Draper said.
Most bases that responded to Stripes queries said they had measures in place to keep the groups separated. Bases like Chinhae in South Korea don’t have a high school. Other bases said it wasn’t an issue because they don’t allow accompanied tours. Most said that their servicemembers are repeatedly briefed on the “age of consent” and what that means.
Here is what some bases do:
Osan Air Base in South Korea does not allow dependents under the age of 20 in any dorms, and has signs posted on all dorms saying so, according to public affairs officer Lt. Col. Rene White.“Socializing between our airmen and high schoolers on base is highly discouraged but not forbidden per se,” White said. “We’ve never had serious issues between airmen and dependents here.”
At Camp Zama in mainland Japan, “pro-active education and prevention counseling for soldiers at every level, highly involved Youth Center and school staff along with a strictly enforced policy regarding guests,” said base spokeswoman Amanda Kraus, the deputy chief spokeswoman for U.S. Army Japan.
Sasebo Naval Base personnel revisited the issue during the “Period of Reflection” in the wake of the Okinawa allegations, according to base spokesman Charles Howard. “SOFA-sponsored personnel are made aware of the necessity to obey all elements of the [uniform code of military justice] and all local laws,” Howard wrote in an email response to Stripes. “They get frequent reminders to that effect and the fact that they’ll be held accountable for their actions, [with] the most recent reminder here occurring during the recent ‘period of reflection.’”There are several policies at Misawa Air Base to keep the group’s separated, said Draper. “Our military members are not permitted at school dances,” he said. “They are also briefed on what is expected of them when they first arrive and at frequent events such as commander’s calls.”Yokosuka put signs up a few months ago after a young teenager was caught inside the barracks, said acting Chief Staff Officer Cmdr. Tim DeWitt. Active-duty servicemembers are also restricted from participating in school functions, like dances, said Nile C. Kinnick High School Principal David Tran. “We want to encourage young sailors to look within their own age group and outside high school,” Tran said.Stripes reporters Jennifer Svan, Bryce Dubee, Travis Tritten, Cindy Fisher and T.D. Flack contributed to this report.