Behavior training ordered for servicemembers on Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A recent rash of off-base incidents involving servicemembers on Okinawa has prompted commanders to call for mandatory behavioral training.
Marine Lt. Gen. Terry G. Robling, the senior commander on Okinawa, has ordered all servicemembers and civilian employees to take part in unit training “to review what is expected of them (in order) to ensure good order and discipline,” according to a news release issued Tuesday afternoon.
On Okinawa, even minor incidents involving U.S. troops are used as ammunition for opponents of the U.S. bases on the island. The latest incidents come at a time when the prefectural government and anti-base factions are stepping up their campaign to scrap a plan to build a new Marine air facility on Okinawa.
Robling met with senior commanders from all services Saturday to discuss measures “to reduce incidents and accidents to the greatest extent possible,” according to the release.
The meeting Saturday was partly in reaction to a hit-and-run accident March 16 in Henoko, in which Okinawa police allege a Navy petty officer who had been drinking struck an Okinawa man’s car with the Humvee she was driving and sped away.
The man and his two children sustained minor injuries and the sailor is under restriction by her unit pending the outcome of an investigation by Okinawan and military police.
The Humvee incident was preceded by the March 14 arrest of two Marines in Naha on charges of drunken driving and interfering with law enforcement. In that case, Okinawa police stopped a car driven by a Marine they suspected of driving while intoxicated shortly after 1 a.m. near Camp Kinser. When officers attempted to conduct a breath test, the passenger of the car tried to block them, according to a police spokesman.
“I need leaders at all echelons in all the services to continue to reinforce what the vast majority do well as forward serving ambassadors of America,” Robling is quoted as saying in the news release.
The behavioral training will be conducted by individual units, officials said.
“These are internal and informal briefings conducted by small-unit commanders in an effort to educate and promote ‘good neighbor’ behavior with those Marines and sailors in their charge,” Marine spokesman 2nd Lt. Lucas Burke said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “The intent is to remind them that we are all ambassadors of the United States while in Japan, and we should act as such when we leave the front gates and interact with our local neighbors and Japanese citizens.”
A Marine and a sailor are being held in separate alcohol-related incidents that occurred after Saturday’s meeting. The Marine, a sergeant who had been drinking, was arrested by Okinawa police Sunday morning after his car allegedly struck a parked taxi in Uruma and then sped away, according to a police spokesman. Okinawa police say the sailor, a seaman apprentice, was arrested after she allegedly crashed her car into the wall of a parking lot in Okinawa City early Sunday and then assaulted a police officer who was called to the scene.
Also, an Army staff sergeant is being tried in a Japanese court on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the November hit-and-run death of an Okinawa man in the village of Yomitan.