Misawa base, city relations impress visiting PACOM commander
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — In his first visit to Misawa, the Pacific region’s top U.S. military leader wanted to find out what warms relations between the base and local community in frozen northern Japan.
“If we could have this kind of relationship everywhere, we’d be really, really happy with it,” said Adm. William J. Fallon, U.S. Pacific Command commander.
Fallon made a brief swing through Misawa last weekend, touring base facilities and meeting with local leaders from the 35th Fighter Wing, the Navy at Misawa, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Misawa city.
The four-star admiral said he was overwhelmed by the hospitality of Misawa Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki and his staff: “He must have had most of the people that work in the city hall out to greet me.”
The key to sustaining such an alliance, Fallon observed, “clearly requires effort and dedication on the part of the leadership here, in the military communities at this base, as well as reciprocal leadership on the civilian side. You sure got it up here. It’s really nice to see.”
After a string of high-profile crimes and alleged wrongdoing involving sailors and airmen elsewhere in Japan, community-building may be the order of the day for U.S. military bases in the Pacific.
The current liberty restrictions affecting Yokosuka-area military personnel — spurred mostly by the Jan. 3 beating death of a Yokosuka woman in which a U.S. sailor stands accused — center on behavior, Fallon said.
“It’s very, very critical in importance to us as a country, not only for our national reputation, but particularly here in Japan, with the large number of people we have living and working in this environment, to have the best possible relationship with the Japanese people,” he said.
Fallon said he’s concerned about the alcohol factor: “If you look back to the cause and effect here, there’s a very, very strong relationship with alcohol and that’s something that … we’ve got to recognize, we’ve got to face up to, and we’ve got to do something about it.”
Currently, drinking hours are curtailed for all active-duty military personnel at Yokosuka Naval Base. Also, 8,500 sailors and airmen in the Kitty Hawk Strike Group are under a 1 a.m. curfew and “liberty buddy” requirement.
The admiral didn’t say whether to expect any new policies aimed at curbing alcohol use.
“Local leaders will deal with that as they deem appropriate,” he said.
When asked whether such sweeping restrictions might affect retention or recruitment, Fallon said: “We need to retain people that get it … people that understand what’s expected of them and how to behave. For those few that don’t get it, then this is not the right organization for them.”
Allison Batdorff contributed to this story.