Kadena commander: Lifting curfew ‘right thing to do’
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The two-week-long liberty stand-down that kept all of Kadena’s Air Force members, regardless of rank, in their on- or off-base quarters from midnight to 5 a.m. came to an end last Friday, much to the delight of locals and servicemembers.
The curfew was enacted by Col. Jeff Kennedy, who was the interim 18th Wing commander for 10 days until the new commander, Brig. Gen. Harold Moulton, arrived. The curfew began Jan. 27 following several off-base, alcohol-related incidents involving Kadena airmen.
“Lifting the curfew restriction at this time is the right thing to do for our professional airmen and for those in our local communities that benefit from the responsible patronage of the U.S. military community,” Moulton was quoted as saying in a news release announcing the curfew’s end.
While the Air Force curfew has been lifted, the liberty card program implemented last July still is in effect, according to Kadena officials. Under that program, airmen are issued silver or blue liberty cards. Silver cardholders are granted unrestricted liberty, but blue cards restrict personnel to their base or off-base residences from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and midnight to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday. The program doesn’t apply to civilian and contract employees, family members or members of other services.
But some airmen think even the liberty card program is too strict.
“I didn’t like it, and I still don’t like the [Liberty Card program],” said Airman 1st Class Kevin Carter, a 20-year-old assigned to the Accessory Flight of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron. “The group is being punished for the actions of a couple.”
Many airmen said more severe punishments — not restrictions — are the way to end off-base misbehavior.
“Hold people accountable for their actions,” said Staff Sgt. Rusty Chase from the Test, Measurement, Diagnostics and Equipment Flight of the 18th CMS. “If you can’t go downtown and know what your limit is, then you should be punished.”
Senior Airman John Accurso, from the Propulsion Flight of the 18th CMS, agreed.
“They should start making an example out of people that aren’t behaving off base … ” he said. “In my view, people are getting light punishments. If people see other people getting kicked out (of the Air Force), it might get them thinking.”
Tech. Sgt. Wayne Mobley, from the 18th Mission Support Squadron’s First Term Airmen Center, said the end of the midnight curfew would boost morale. He said he sees all the new airmen who have been on island for less than 30 days, and the curfew kept many on base. “They’ll get the chance to have the opportunity to go out and enjoy themselves,” Mobley said.
Local community officials also were glad to see the midnight curfew end.
“It was good that the curfew was lifted after achieving its purpose,” said Okinawa Mayor Masakazu Nakasone. “I have been concerned about the situation in which the entire people are punished while those who misbehave are only a fraction of them. It was good for both sides that the curfew was lifted quickly.”
But, Nakasone added: “I hope that the military would continue its effort to keep a tight control over those who misbehave.”
One local bar owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said “when the military imposes a curfew on its members, it becomes an economic sanction to the local community,” he said, adding that no Air Force members visited his bar during the curfew period. “For business owners who cater to military servicemembers, it is like we are the ones who are punished every time their members misbehave.”