Marines suspend use of illumination flares after ‘several’ land off base on Okinawa
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 6, 2019
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Marine Corps has suspended its use of illumination flares on Okinawa after “several” 60 mm mortar flare rounds were found Thursday and Friday outside training grounds near Camp Hansen, according to an official statement.
“Marine Corps Installations Pacific is working closely with the Okinawa Defense Bureau,” an emailed statement from the command said Friday afternoon. “We value the safety of the local community in which we live and take this matter very seriously. The incident is under review, and we have suspended illumination training on ranges.”
Marine officials reached Friday provided no further details.
Local residents of the Igei neighborhood in Kin town reported a flare to Ishikawa Police at 5:34 p.m. Thursday, a police spokesman said Friday.
No injuries or damage were reported when the flare — roughly 4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and weighing about half a pound — landed in a farmer’s field under a parachute. The flares are typically fired from mortars at night to illuminate an area.
Kin officials contacted the Okinawa Defense Bureau, which represents Japan’s defense ministry on the island.
“We took a photo of the object and sent it to U.S. military officials to ask for the details,” a bureau spokesman said Friday. The Marines confirmed to the bureau Friday the flare belongs to them. They vowed to investigate the incident, the spokesman said.
Some government officials in Japan customarily speak on condition of anonymity.
Incidents like aviation mishaps or the dropping of military debris outside of U.S. military facilities are often met with indignation on the tiny island prefecture that is home to just over half of the 50,000 U.S. service members stationed in Japan.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, who generally opposes the U.S. military presence, vowed to protest the incident in remarks to reporters Friday morning.
“This type of incident should not happen under any circumstances,” he said. “Any training that may potentially cause harm to life or property should take place in the middle of nowhere.”