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Military personnel and Defense Department civilians living off-base in Japan may start receiving AFN for free as early as next month.

Officials at several of the country’s U.S. military bases say that sometime in November they’ll begin issuing the satellite signal decoders and satellite dishes needed to receive full American Forces Network programming.

Customers will be responsible for setting up the system and acquiring landlord approval. Bases plan to provide detailed how-to instructions, while the option of professional installation costs about $150 at most locations.

U.S. Forces Japan purchased the equipment for more than 10,000 households in Japan as part of a $3.2 million U.S. Pacific Command initiative to provide personnel off-base with critical force-protection and command information in a timely manner.

Off-base residents now must lease the decoder and buy the satellite dish to receive the same programming that’s available to base residents for free.

At Army and Air Force Exchange Service outlets in Japan, the satellite dishes retail for $115 and decoders lease for $25 a month. USFJ officials have said the program will save servicemembers and civilians about $300 a year in equipment leasing fees.

Eligible households in Japan will be limited to one government-issued satellite dish and decoder, officials said. Most bases are limiting the service to command-sponsored active duty members and Defense Department civilians entitled to overseas housing.

Rollout schedule

Here’s a breakdown of when and how bases in mainland Japan plan to issue the equipment:

Yokota Air Base: The equipment is scheduled to be delivered to Yokota by Thursday, Samson Derilo, Furnishings Management Office chief, wrote in an e-mail, though an issuing date for customers has not been set. To begin the equipment sign-out, customers must first go through the base housing office for an authorization letter to be signed by the landlord, permitting installation at the residence. Once approved, the customer will go to FMO for one decoder, one satellite dish and one converter. DOD civilians and servicemembers authorized for off-base housing are eligible. Service is good for three years once it’s activated. Call DSN 225-8002 for more information.

Yokosuka Naval Base, Sasebo Naval Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi: Commander, Naval Forces Japan officials said they expect to begin issuing the satellite decoders and dishes to eligible customers at Yokosuka, Sasebo and Atsugi in mid-November. Customers must obtain landlord approval for installation prior to signing out equipment and accept responsiblity for any damage. In an e-mail, CNFJ officials said, “While eligibility requirements remain under review, generally speaking, most military personnel and U.S. Civil Service civilian employees will be eligible.” At Yokosuka, equipment will be signed out at the housing self-help center; at Sasebo, the main base housing office; and at Atsugi, Tower 3043. Call DSN 243-6662 for more information.

Camp Zama: The program is expected to be implemented sometime in November. Customers must complete paperwork at the Directorate of Public Works Housing Management Division, Building 671, to receive the equipment. Military and DOD civilians receiving overseas housing allowance or living quarters allowance working in the Camp Zama community and living off-post with a departure date in excess of one year are eligible for the service. Call Marc Wong at DSN 263-4754 for more information.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni: Base officials are still waiting for receipt of satellite dishes and have not set an issue date. “They should be arriving very soon,” officials said in an e-mail. Customers will sign out the equipment at the base self-help warehouse. Only Status of Forces Agreement personnel living off base, to include local hires, are eligible for the service. Call DSN 253-6817 for more information.

Misawa Air Base: Issue date is January 2006. All command-sponsored personnel are eligible for the service. Sign-out will be through the base Furnishings Management Office. Call FMO at DSN 226-3565 for more information.

— Jennifer H. Svan

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