MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan - From the killing of a Yokosuka taxi driver to the alleged rape of a 14-year-old Okinawa girl, recent allegations of off-base crimes by U.S. military personnel have thrust some Japan bases under an unflattering and uncomfortable spotlight.

In sleepy northern Japan, Misawa has been quietly marching to a different beat.

The number of troubling incidents involving base personnel, such as domestic abuse, assaults and safety mishaps, took a nosedive in 2007, down as much as 50 percent, according to base officials.

Perhaps most noticeably, driving under the influence of alcohol cases dropped from 28 to 15 from 2006 to 2007. A DUI charge in the second week of April was the first on the installation this year, a rare dry spell rivaled only by a stretch last summer when the 35th Fighter Wing went five months without a DUI, wing commander Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy notes proudly.

“I personally have not been at an installation where we have had that kind of success,” he said.

O’Shaughnessy, now in his 15th month as wing commander, attributes the decline to more emphasis on “awareness and accountability,” starting with squadron commanders and front-line supervisors, on down to airmen.

Helping drive home that twin message is “quick look,” a program coined by O’Shaughnessy and formalized last summer.

If an incident causes equipment damage or personal injury that’s of wing-level interest, O’Shaughnessy wants to know about it within 24 hours. The airman’s squadron commander must brief O’Shaughnessy “for a quick look at the situation,” he said.

O’Shaughnessy examines the incident to see whether it occurred due to a lack of training, resources or guidance. Lessons are then shared across the wing.

But that “quick look” for squadron commanders admittedly isn’t always speedy. It requires filling out a template that asks for detailed information, such as contributing factors to the incident, and the airman’s previous assignments, awards and decorations, personality traits, supervisor and peer impressions, drinking habits and attitude after the incident.

Depending on the incident, “it can take a good couple of hours with a lot of people involved,” said Lt. Col. Roger Johnson, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander. “We’re pulling in supervisors, peers, roommates ... to try and put the whole story together.”

The process can be somewhat “time consuming,” O’Shaughnessy said. But “we’re investing in our future. In my estimation it’s time well spent.”

The program provides an opportunity for commanders “to get involved with their people and to really get to the bottom of why something happened, not just what happened,” he said.

“Quick look” can help commanders connect the dots. It helped draw attention to a couple of incidents that occurred a week apart a few months ago at the same off-base bar, said Lt. Col. Joseph Marcinkevich, the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron commander. Commanders realized these weren’t isolated episodes and approached the bar owner about including the establishment in a town patrol, Marcinkevich said.

Johnson and Marcinkevich said airmen in their units have been briefed during commander’s calls about “quick look.”

“It’s to let them know, ‘Hey, we do care, we are getting pretty detailed about what’s going on,’” Johnson said. “We’re not doing it to harass anybody. We’re doing it to learn lessons and to get those lessons back out to the wing.”

The word still may be trickling down to airmen about what “quick look” is. About half a dozen airmen randomly questioned Friday said they never heard of the program. However, other messages appear to be ringing loud and clear.

“[We get briefed about] being a good wingman and taking care of each other,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Craig, 27, of Miami. “We want to be good ambassadors.”

Craig’s colleague, Senior Airman Donnell Owens, 22, of Woodbridge, Va., said Misawa airmen hear about “things going on at other bases.”

“It feels good that we’re better off,” he said. “We want to keep that going, keep Misawa with a good name.”

Airman 1st Class Anthony Sullivan, 21, of Phoenix, said he thinks more airmen are behaving because the stakes are now higher. Do something stupid “and you’re not going to get a slap on the wrist anymore,” he said.

In the current force-shaping climate, something like a DUI can derail a military career, he said.

While a DUI generally results in nonjudicial punishment with reduction in rank, O’Shaughnessy said, he leaves discipline to the discretion of squadron commanders. “Quick look,” he added, “isn’t about the discipline. This is really looking at the environment that led to the incident.”

But O’Shaughnessy has told his commanders “there ought to be a buzz in the organization.” Lessons can’t be learned if it’s business as usual.

Marcinkevich called a whole shop into work in service dress blues on a down day, after three members of the unit were involved in alcohol-related events.

They talked about what happened and “what we were going to do to overcome that. They heard it direct from me,” he said.

Following an incident in one of the LRS dormitories, Johnson brought one floor of the dorm to his office on a Saturday. It was a teaching opportunity, he said: “When do you become a wingman? When someone’s gone over the edge or do you do it earlier in the evening?”

“Quick look” isn’t used only “for guys getting in trouble,” either, the squadron commanders said.

Johnson wrote up a “quick look” template after one of his airmen, through no fault of his own, became stranded on an island 200 yards from shore on Lake Ogawara. The fire department had to rescue him.

Marcinkevich wrote up a report after one of the squadron’s fire trucks was involved in a minor “backing accident.”

“Because of the type of vehicle it is ... because you don’t want it to happen again,” he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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