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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — If stateside sailors don’t want to serve at Yokosuka because of liberty restrictions, let them stay put, says Commander, Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. James D. Kelly.

While new policies on curfews and drinking may frighten off some sailors, Kelly anticipates the restrictions will have a “minimal impact” on manning, he said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.

“There may be a little bit of an impact,” Kelly said. “But this is the one place people are assigned where they have to be ambassadors every day. It’s a strategic issue on how we meld into our community. The folks back home — unless they’ve been over here — they don’t understand that.”

Liberty restrictions involving curfews and alcohol were put into place after the Jan. 3 robbery and beating death of a 56-year-old Yokosuka woman.

Navy airman William Reese of the USS Kitty Hawk is accused of the crime and is in Japanese custody.

Requiring a liberty buddy — a rule normally reserved for port visits — now is policy for all 8,500 members of the Kitty Hawk Strike Group.

The group also has a 1 a.m. “off the streets” curfew.

An alcohol policy limiting drinking after certain hours was set by general order for all active-duty Navy in Yokosuka.

The U.S. alliance with Japan is too important to risk with bad behavior, Kelly said.

“This is the most important alliance we’ve got,” he said. “We just have to tell the [sailors] back in the States that ‘we expect more out of you here and that’s just the way it is.’ It’s more important out here.”

Traditionally, there are more billets than bodies to fill them at Yokosuka Naval Base, depending on the command and the rate. U.S. Seventh Fleet has incorporated a “Choice of Coast” initiative to motivate people to choose Japan.

Assignment Incentive Pay is another draw to interest people in the USS Kitty Hawk.

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