Iwakuni lifts 10 p.m. curfew for Marines
IWAKUNI MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Japan — After three weeks of liberty restrictions to allow servicemembers “a time of introspection,” the nighttime curfew has been lifted, base officials said.
“Now these restrictions are lifted and I charge each of you to understand that you are ambassadors for your country and that you are responsible for your personal behavior,” Col. David Darrah, the base commander, said in a statement Wednesday. “Being drunk is no excuse for disruptive, violent behavior.”
Darrah imposed the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew Jan. 13 after a Marine was accused of breaking into a Japanese home and stealing about $2,000. Two other Marines were accused of auto-parts thefts in January.
Darrah threatened to order the restrictions in November, in response to a series of incidents over the previous 10 months. The January arrests triggered the punishment.
During the past three weeks, Marine officials met with local leaders to reassure them that the base took the incidents seriously, said Capt. Stewart Upton, an Iwakuni spokesman.
Iwakuni government leaders petitioned the base in January after the arrests.
Base leaders also asked off-base bar owners to enforce a 21-year-old drinking age limit on troops — a year older than Japanese law requires.
As part of the repeal, base leaders called on Marines to better police themselves.
“If you exhibit poor judgment when you drink, then stop drinking,” Darrah said in the statement.
“If you see a fellow Marine, sailor, soldier, or airman starting to cause problems, don’t ignore the situation but take charge and defuse it before it could escalate into an international incident.”
Many Marines at Iwakuni said the policy had its intended effect.
“I think people are going to start watching out more because they don’t want to be stuck on base,” said Lance Cpl. John Ruttinger, with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.
“Even though it did involve the whole base, it still really only affected those Marines who aren’t responsible.”
The curfew served to remind everyone that they must look out more for each other.
“It was a huge wake-up call,” said Sgt. David Young, with Marine Aircraft Group 12. “They’ve been telling us time and time again to watch out for your fellow Marines.”
Marine leaders reiterated that the restriction could be reimposed very quickly if problems reoccur.
Iwakuni city officials said Wednesday they hope the time of reflection proved sufficient. Nobuyuki Takashima, chief of Iwakuni’s U.S. Military Affairs Office, said the city never asked for a curfew but sought better discipline and education for servicemembers.
“We believe that the military lifting [its] curfew means that they were assured that the purpose of the measure was achieved,” he said.
Some bars and restaurants that cater to servicemembers voiced concerns that the curfew was affecting business, Takashima said. But many understood once base officials met with them to discuss it.
Takashima said the city is hopeful the restrictions resolved the problems.
“We hope to see the successful result of the education,” he said.
— Chiyomi Sumida and Greg Tyler contributed to this report.