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After attending a mandatory liberty card briefing at the Camp Kinser Theater, Marine Lance Cpl. Walter Fafara (left) and Lance Cpl. Rinaldo Williams from the Transportation Management Office, Camp Kinser, inspect their newly issued liberty cards Thursday.
After attending a mandatory liberty card briefing at the Camp Kinser Theater, Marine Lance Cpl. Walter Fafara (left) and Lance Cpl. Rinaldo Williams from the Transportation Management Office, Camp Kinser, inspect their newly issued liberty cards Thursday. (Mark Rankin / S&S)

CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — The numbers tell the story, Capt. Bradley Gordon told the Marines attending a briefing in the base theater here Thursday.

In 1996, statistics maintained by Okinawa Prefectural Police showed 39 off-base liberty incidents involving U.S. servicemembers. Last year there were 112.

And even though most of the incidents were minor, something had to be done to fix the problem, he said.

“Two-thirds were committed by enlisted members in grades E-3 and below,” said Gordon, commander of Bravo Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base. “One-fourth was by new NCOs — E-4s. And 52 percent of all incidents occurred between the hours of 2400 and 0500.”

The solution, Marine officials hope, was announced last week by Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman, commander, Marine Corps Bases Japan. Effective Friday, almost all Marines and sailors in ranks E-5 and below attached to Marine units in Japan are restricted to their bases after midnight.

The order is in effect for all Marine bases on Okinawa, as well as Camp Fuji and Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station on the mainland.

Marines ranked E-5 and below were issued red liberty cards after receiving the briefings on the new plan. All other ranks received gold cards that grant them unrestricted liberty.

Marines ranked E-4 and E-5 may receive the gold cards if their commanders deem they have earned them with good behavior, Gordon said. In some units most sergeants (E-5s) already have been given gold cards.

“The liberty card program has been developed for the 9 percent of the population that continues to get into trouble,” Gordon said. “It’s a tool to aid in maintaining good order and discipline.”

Under the program, all red liberty cardholders are restricted to their bases, or homes if they live off base, from midnight to 5 a.m. The only exceptions are for traveling to and from work or if they are on official duty or leave status.

Gordon said the “Cinderella Liberty” will be strongly enforced. Liberty cards will be checked at all gates and by “courtesy patrols” that make the rounds of bar districts outside the bases.

“I think this will help reduce the incidents out in town,” said Lance Cpl. Ricardo Ramirez as he examined the card he was issued after the briefing. “Some guys might not like it, but I think it’s a good idea.” Ramirez is assigned to Camp Kinser’s Provost Marshal’s Office.

Some of the cards were specially marked for Marines under 21.

“It’s to help us become good ambassadors when off base,” said Cpl. William Evans, 21, just after he signed for his card. “It makes it easier to identify underage Marines. It will cut down on underage drinking.”

Some were not so sure the cards would help stem the off-base incidents

“Maybe it’s going to work, maybe not,” said Lance Cpl. Walter Fafara, 21, just after he signed for his card. “There are always loopholes and always people who are going to find them. Once they fill in the loopholes, it should be good to go.”

He said most Marines he knows ranked E-3 and below feel they are being singled out for the behavior of a minority.

“There has to be a better way to control that 9 percent,” he said.

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