III MEF on Okinawa mandates liberty/safety stand-down
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marines, sailors and civilians throughout the III Marine Expeditionary Force were directed to take time for a mandatory liberty/safety stand-down last week.
Marine bases and units throughout Okinawa discussed such things as how to be a good “ambassador” with the host nation and what values should guide their everyday decisions.
“We don’t want to be the big hammer focusing on what’s wrong,” Lt. Col. Brent Hearn, executive officer of Headquarters and Service Battalion on Camp Foster, told the crowd at Friday’s stand-down at the base theater. “We want to reinforce what’s right.”
While the Marines wanted to focus on what servicemembers are doing right rather than punishments they’ll face if they misbehave, Hearn said the recent arrest of Air Force Staff Sgt. Armando Valdez for allegedly molesting a 10-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl was a factor.
“It’s not a coincidence that this presentation comes on the heels of the alleged molestation by an Air Force member,” he told the audience. Hearn continued by saying it was time for those within III MEF to do an “examination of conscience.”
Briefings during the 3½-hour stand-down included lessons on being a good citizen, legal issues of being in Japan, a history lesson on the Spartans and common values they share with today’s Marines, a talk on character and how it defines a person, a presentation on mental and physical courage, and a cultural awareness lesson.
The new commanding general of Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler, Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Medina, also stopped by the theater to address the crowd. He said a majority of accidents on Okinawa involving those within III MEF involve those who have been on the island for some time.
“We need to stop and look back at what we’re doing … make sure we’re not becoming complacent,” he said.
Medina told the servicemembers and civilians that decisions they make and actions they take will affect them in the long run.
“You may not know where you want to be 25 years from now but you do know you want to be successful,” he said. “Whatever you want to be … down the road, you need to make sure you’re not closing windows (with your actions now).”