Hansen training goes on despite bullet allegation
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan’s Ministry of Defense has requested the halt of live-fire training on Camp Hansen until the source of a bullet found lodged in a car parked near the base is determined.
However, the Marines stated Tuesday that training will continue while they cooperate with Japanese officials to find the source of the bullet.
Okinawa police are looking into the claim of a man who said he removed a stray round from his car’s license plate Saturday night. The man who lives in Igei district of Kin, about one mile from the nearest firing range on Camp Hansen, believes the bullet was shot from Hansen sometime in the past week.
"The Director General of the Okinawa Defense Bureau delivered a letter to Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer [on Monday] requesting that live-fire training be temporarily halted until range safety measures are fully reviewed," Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Adrian Rankine-Galloway wrote in response to a Stars and Stripes query Tuesday. "Until the investigation is complete, it would be inappropriate to speculate on any future changes to training."
In the letter to Zilmer, Ro Manabe, director of the ministry’s Naha Bureau, asked for training to be suspended, according to a Ministry spokesman.
"Fear is growing among the residents in the neighboring community, who take the incident as a life-threatening serious matter," according to the letter, which the spokesman read to a Stripes translator.
Meanwhile, Igei community leaders distributed fliers Monday urging 80 families who live adjacent to the base to search for any bullets that might have landed in the area.
Although the owner of the car did not notice the bullet had lodged in his license plate until Saturday, his grandmother later said she was standing near the car when she heard something strike it on Wednesday — the same day her 25-year-old grandson heard firing on a nearby range inside Camp Hansen, said Igei district Mayor Masafumi Ikehara
The incident is reminiscent of an alleged stray bullet incident in July 2002 when a pineapple grower south of Nago claimed a stray machine gun round from nearby Camp Schwab narrowly missed him. Okinawa police later reported that while the round matched ammunition Marines use, its rifling marks failed to match those of test bullets Marines say were used the day of the incident.
In response to that incident, Marines installed restraints on amphibious assault vehicles during training at the range on Camp Schwab to control the horizontal and vertical movements of the machine guns, preventing a stray round to soar over a mountain and endanger people.