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DAEGU, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell said Thursday he plans to ease curfew restrictions for higher-ranking servicemembers within two months, possibly by starting a tiered curfew system that would let them stay out later than lower-ranking troops.

Speaking at the end of a daylong visit to Daegu’s Camp Walker and Camp Henry, Bell said the current system doesn’t recognize that by the time servicemembers reach a certain rank, they’ve had to show maturity and responsibility.

“If soldiers are expected to be leaders, then why won’t I let them go out at night?” he asked.

Bell said he doesn’t know what ranks will be affected and what the adjusted curfew hours will be, but he will discuss proposals with USFK leaders at the peninsulawide commander’s conference on March 22.

U.S. soldiers in South Korea are required to be indoors between midnight and 5 a.m. on weekdays and between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends and U.S. holidays.

A stricter version of that curfew went into place for USFK troops a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when most U.S. bases worldwide set curfews. Many have since lifted their curfews, but U.S. commanders in South Korea have never fully rescinded a curfew, citing force-protection concerns.

Bell said there were some “horrible” incidents involving U.S. servicemembers off-post after he took command in 2006, but leaders have done a better job of counseling their servicemembers and there is less need for the curfew.

He said his senior NCOs approached him about four months ago about starting a tiered curfew system, saying that more-relaxed curfews work for servicemembers stationed in other parts of the world.

“I do believe that they’ve got a point,” he said.

Bell said most problems between U.S. servicemembers and South Koreans involve servicemembers ranked E-5 or lower. A curfew may not be needed, he said, for an officer or noncommissioned officer with 15 years of service and a clean record, in comparison to a private at his first duty station who many be outside the United States for the first time.

Bell first discussed the curfew changes Thursday morning during a meeting with representatives from Better Opportunities for Single and Unaccompanied Soldiers. That meeting was closed to the media, but soldiers said afterward that Bell talked about changing the curfew within three months and making it less restrictive for higher-ranking soldiers.


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