Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station troops barred from nighttime liberty
February 1, 2004
Marine Corps leaders at Iwakuni said they warned their members in November, after a spat of incidents, there would be consequences if they did not get control of their ranks.
Now, with six of their own entrenched in Japan’s legal system, including three who were indicted Friday, all Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station troops are barred from nighttime liberty.
“This is not a surprise,” station commander Col. David Darrah said last week. “Everyone knew this could happen. … To say 99 percent are paying for the one percent involved in incidents is not the case. More than a few people have not been paying attention.”
The 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew requires all troops to be on base or in their off-base quarters. Darrah calls the curfew a “time of introspection” until he orders it lifted. He has not decided how long the curfew will stay in place.
There has been no recent “crime wave,” Darrah said, although the recent release of the local prosecutor’s trial dates and indictments may have created that impression. The incidents have occurred over a 10-month period, he explained.
“There is no gaping wound,” Darrah said, “but even one incident off base is not the type of conduct that we want.”
Since the curfew began, he said, “there have not been any off-base incidents — it’s been pretty benign.”
The Provost Marshal’s Office said restricting troops to the station has not resulted in a spike of on-base incidents either, even though more troops visit base clubs and facilities after 10 p.m.
Putting the base on the curfew has a purely statistical purpose aside from “introspection,” Darrah said: Most off-base incidents occur during the late night and early morning hours.
Darrah said discussions he had about the curfew with Iwakuni’s mayor were positive. He said he also met with local club owners and asked them to enforce the base’s drinking age of 21 for servicemembers. In Japan, that age is 20. “We were directed by the mayor to instruct the city restaurants and bars to thoroughly check IDs,” said Nobuyuki Takashima, Iwakuni city’s base affairs office director. “The city wants to prevent any incidents from happening. It is not the goal to keep servicemembers from getting off base. The city seeks discipline and education for the servicemembers.”
Nearly all the off-base incidents involved alcohol, according to base officials.
But Darrah said the base doesn’t have a massive alcohol-abuse problem.
“The Substance Abuse Counseling Office … proactively counsels all Marines on the dangers of alcohol,” said Capt. Stewart Upton, base spokesman. “Marines are given their first class once they arrive during the Joint Reception Center briefings. During these classes, Marines are told about the strict policy of no underage drinking, whether out in town or aboard station.”
“Marines are also afforded the opportunity to seek help, without fear of retribution, if they feel they have a problem with alcohol abuse,” he said.
If peers or supervisors believe they perceive a problem with alcohol involving someone in their unit, Upton said, “They are able to counsel the Marine, as well as direct or mandate visits for counseling.”
Darrah believes the educational programs, counseling opportunities, and Marine Corps Community Services offerings — along with his curfew — should create an environment conducive to behavior changes and curtail off-base incidents.
“Iwakuni has a great reputation,” he said, “and we’re going to keep it.”