Commander's trust is key to valuable silver-card freedom
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Airman 1st Class Janet Reyes’ immediate future holds a few less late nights on the town.
Like many junior enlisted airmen, Reyes says she isn’t thrilled about the new Kadena liberty card system, which started Thursday by automatically restricting all airmen 1st class and below to a military base from midnight to 5 a.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends.
Other ranks can receive restrictions based on a commander’s recommendation.
But Reyes is banking on her own good behavior and the leeway granted to squadron commanders to eventually be her ticket back to late-night fun.
“We do have a chance to get a silver card,” Reyes said. “This is a chance to prove oneself.”
Reyes’ future liberty status rests with 18th Mission Support Squadron commander Lt. Col. Angel Olivares, who says he has a good feel for individual maturity levels within his squadron.
He said all senior airmen and below in his squadron will start with restricted blue liberty cards this week but many will receive unrestricted silver liberty cards next week as he evaluates them.
Other commanders are taking a harder line, airmen say. Some already have told their squadrons that they won’t be granting any silver cards to senior airmen and below without special circumstances.
Olivares said he believes almost all of his airmen of all ranks have proven deserving of a silver card. But the new system also means some of his NCOs may be in for a shock.
“There are some staff and tech sergeants that have clearly shown that they are not ready to handle their responsibilities and will receive a blue card,” Olivares said.
Several airmen indicated they’d cheer such discernment.
Senior Airman Shelton Morgan credits base officials with warning airmen earlier that steps would be taken if they didn’t curb alcohol-related incidents. “But … it’s still unfair to put restrictions on everyone of the same rank,” he said.
Not all junior airmen opposed the liberty restrictions and some said they didn’t go far enough. They noted that the restrictions are no guarantee against incidents like one July 3, in which a staff sergeant was accused of molesting an Okinawan girl.
“If they’re going to [restrict] by rank, they should start with E-5,” said Senior Airman Natalie Whitten.
Whitten suggested issuing three liberty cards, with more variation in the curfew hours.
What might have prevented the weekend incident, some airmen said, is what base officials refer to as “wingmen,” airmen who go out with their friends and check any irresponsible behavior.
Several junior airmen said they already try to look out for each other. Whitten says it isn’t unusual for her to collect six pairs of keys from friends on a late night.
That wingman instinct is stronger on base, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Mike Paoli. It’s part of the reason officials don’t want airmen who are going to drink to be off base late.
“On base there is an unspoken influence,” he said.
Airmen surrounded by potentially higher-ranking airmen on base are more likely to behave better and be taken care of than if they are off base, Paoli said.
However, some airmen were concerned that keeping all of the drinking on base could mean a new set of concerns.
“I think it could potentially start problems in the dorms,” Reyes said.