Marines tighten liberty card policy in Okinawa
April 12, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — All servicemembers assigned to Marine Corps Bases Japan and III Marine Expeditionary Force are now required to carry liberty cards, officials said Thursday.
The new policy also requires E-4s and below to be accompanied by a buddy when on liberty off base, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Judd Wilson said Thursday in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
Previously only E-5s and below were required to carry liberty cards and E-3s and below were required to have liberty buddies.
The cards will be issued in red and gold. No liberty limits are placed on gold cards, but red-card holders are required to be on a base or in their off-base quarters between midnight and 5 a.m.
“This order is intended to reduce the number of off-duty liberty incidents and promote positive relations with our host nation and its citizens,” Wilson said of the policy that was approved last Saturday. “The issuance of liberty cards to all service members will provide commanders with a tool that will aid them in maintaining good order, discipline and morale.”
The new order doesn’t affect the current midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew. According to officials, the ban on off-base consumption of alcohol for all active-duty personnel on the island and at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Camp Fuji on mainland Japan is still in effect. That curfew was imposed earlier this year after servicemembers were accused of several high-profile crimes on Okinawa. Once the curfew is lifted, the new liberty card policy will take effect.
Upon arrival to Japan, E-5s and below will be issued a red card. E-5s and E-4s can be granted a gold card after 30 days of observation and E-3s and below after 90 days. Officials stressed that gold cards are issued at unit commanders’ discretion.
“The majority of Marines understand the new policy and why it is necessary,” said Col. Kenneth X. Lester, the commander of the Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji.
Lester said that in addition to checking liberty cards at the gate, the installation also conducts courtesy patrols in the nearby town of Gotemba.
Senior noncommissioned officers and officers will have a shorter wait for their gold cards, he said, but he added that the cards still have to be earned.
“We are not going to be issuing gold cards to all my guys,” he said.
Lester said that because Camp Fuji is such a small installation he expects that liberty cards should be handed out to all eligible Marines before the weekend.
Staff noncommissioned officers and officers on Okinawa should receive their new cards over the next few days, said Master Sgt. Charles Albrecht, a Marine spokesman.
Though the policy is already in effect, the cards are still in the process of being made, Albrecht said. The cards will be serialized, laminated and then issued to E-6s and above through their commands.
Servicemembers at Iwakuni could have new liberty cards by the end of this week, said Cpl. Lendus Casey, an air station spokesman.
“We’re in the process of issuing them,” Casey said.
The air station’s shore patrol will assist the provost marshal’s office in policing servicemembers taking liberty under the new system, Casey said.
On Okinawa, courtesy patrols are also “authorized to conduct liberty card checks during duty,” Wilson said.
Stars and Stripes reporters Bryce S. Dubee and Travis J. Tritten contributed to this report.