Along with the security and liberty briefings U.S. sailors and Marines from Japan received before visiting the Philippines for bilateral training in late 2005, they learned about a new article under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that for the first time makes it a crime to solicit a prostitute.

An Oct. 14 presidential order made soliciting prostitution a specific crime under the UCMJ, although it had been punishable under other charges in the past, officials said.

The new law took effect with little fanfare last year, but the changes are being noted on deck plates and in briefings throughout the region.

“We work hard to ensure our sailors get the word. For example, our leadership conveys changes of policy in morning quarters, in plans of the day, and in each of the port-visit briefings, where it’s particularly relevant,” said Cmdr. Ike Skelton, spokesman for the 7th Fleet at Yokosuka Naval Base.

The awareness is part of a larger Navy campaign to inform sailors and Marines about human trafficking. A Navy instruction in November mandated that all Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers and civilians take an online course by February about recognizing signs of human trafficking.

The training is part of a Defense Department effort to root out military involvement in human trafficking, which in recent years Pentagon officials have called a threat to national security.

The focus, according to DOD Deputy Inspector General Jerry Hansen, began in 2002 with a Pentagon study that found soldiers in South Korea were contributing to human trafficking by supporting prostitution there. Hansen said in a speech in March that the new UCMJ charge would be part of the solution since many prostitutes are victims of human trafficking.

“Trafficking in humans is brutal and humiliating to the victims; it could undermine our relationship with our host nation and regional allies and it is contrary to our core values of honor, courage and commitment,” Gunnery Sgt. Chuck Albrecht, a Marine Corps spokesman on Okinawa, wrote in a statement.

“The Marine Corps in collaboration with host-nation authorities and other U.S. government agencies will remain vigilant and proactive in preventing and identifying trafficking in humans enterprises and activities.”

Under a directive by Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Medina, Marine Corps Bases Japan deputy commander, all Marines on Okinawa will receive training about the new UCMJ article and human trafficking prevention by the end of January, Albrecht said. Marines new to Japan are to receive the training within the first 90 days they are in the country.

Marine Cpl. Robert Drinkwine from Camp Foster, Okinawa, said the briefing he received on prostitution and human trafficking was an eye-opener.

“It helped me recognize that human trafficking happens all over the world and the Marine Corps isn’t going to tolerate it,” he said. “I never really thought about it [before the briefing], but I know it’s out there.”

James Duke, a Department of Defense civilian at Yokosuka Naval Base, said he heard about the new UCMJ law in similar human trafficking training.

“Maybe it will make sailors behave better, but it will definitely make civilians think twice,” he said.

In Japan, Army and Air Force leaders plan to start similar education campaigns later this month, according to U.S. Forces Japan. Base officials will inform servicemembers during future newcomers’ briefings and through command announcements in January.

Accordingly, Senior Airman Paul Wyrozynski of the 374th Maintenance Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, said Tuesday he’d read about the proposal online but didn’t know it officially had become part of the UCMJ. It wasn’t announced through the chain of command, he said, and airmen haven’t been required to attend any classes yet on the modification. “It’s not to say that’s not coming,” he added.

So far, no servicemembers in Japan have been punished for the new crime, military officials said.

“Personally,” Wyrozynski said, “the change doesn’t really affect me” but “it’s like any other law. If you break the rules, you should be punished accordingly.”

Under the revised UCMJ, soliciting a prostitute will carry a maximum punishment of one year of confinement, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge.

While many servicemembers agree with the penalties, Drinkwine said he thinks it may be a bit too easy on perpetrators. The loss of pay and ticket out of the military are fine, he said, “but I think they should serve more time.”

Staff writers David Allen, Allison Batdorff, Vince Little and Fred Zimmerman contributed to this story.

Message mandates training for sailors

Vice Admiral A.E. Rondeau, director of Navy Staff, message to all Navy leaders in November:

“By 90 days from release of this message commanders and leaders of all Department of Navy units shall ensure that all DON personnel assigned their units have completed the TIP (trafficking in persons) awareness training package, understand and recognize indicators of TIP, and how to avoid fostering or aiding it. To keep TIP awareness fresh in the minds of DON personnel, commanders shall ensure TIP awareness briefs are a mandatory part of liberty (safety) briefs before each port call.”

“TIP is a significant criminal activity that results in the involuntary servitude of thousands. The Secretary of Defense has stated ‘no leader in this department should turn a blind eye to this issue.’ TIP is a violation of human rights, it is incompatible with navy core values and it undermines our mission.”

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