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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The U.S. Marine Corps is tweaking the timeline for eliminating one-year unaccompanied tours for most Marines in Japan.

After announcing in October that the one-year unaccompanied tours would be phased out over five years for all Marines assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Bases, Japan, Headquarters Marine Corps last week modified the policy. Starting soon, the tour for first-term single Marines on their initial assignment to Japan will be two years.

The only exception is for Marines at Camp Fuji, which will remain a 12-month unaccompanied assignment for all personnel, according to MARADMIN 267/04, an administrative order published Tuesday.

The phase-in of the two-year unaccompanied tours for all other Marines, which began in April for officers and O-5 and above and E-8 and E-9 enlisted personnel, was not changed.

A Marine spokesman on Okinawa says the timeline for the change of policy is still being worked out.

“The new assignment policy is being phased in over a five-year period,” stated the modification to the assignment policy. “The full details are still in development, but has commenced with the assignment of colonels, lieutenant colonels, sergeants major, master gunnery sergeants, first sergeants and master sergeants.”

The change affects only junior Marines with more than two years left on their first enlistment.

“Single first term Marines will be assigned to Okinawa and Iwakuni on a 24-month unaccompanied tour,” the order states. Marines with less than two years left on their enlistment will be assigned a tour in line with their time left in service.

“This will be the exception, not the norm,” the order states. “Every effort will be made to send Marines with at least 24 months remaining [on their enlistments].”

Okinawa officials, pushing to reduce the number of troops and bases on the island, were assured by the Marine Corps last year that the tour change would not add to the 17,000 Marines assigned to Okinawa. The change will, however, probably increase the number of family members on the island.

About 29 percent of the Marines on Okinawa are under the six and seven-month unit deployment program from stateside bases and wouldn’t be affected by the change in tours. Of the remaining permanent personnel assigned to the III MEF, about 75 percent are on Okinawa on 12-month unaccompanied assignments.

Many single Marines assigned to Okinawa for the one-year tours apply for a one-year extension, Marine officials said.

When the tour-change was first announced in October, Marine officials said it was to “create greater continuity and unit stability.”

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