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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Airmen wanting to travel more than four hours by road from Misawa on holidays, weekends or days off are required to either take leave or obtain a written pass from their supervisor as part of a new 35th Fighter Wing policy.

The policy went into effect Dec. 10 and is intended to promote supervisor accountability of wing personnel, not to restrict travel, according to military officials.

Maj. Roy Rockwell, 35th Fighter Wing director of staff, said wing commander Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy wants airmen to get out and see Japan. But he also wants “supervisors to have an idea of what’s going on with their airmen,” he said. “He wants supervisors involved in their airmen’s lives. If you know what’s going on in their personal lives, you know what’s going to affect them in their professional lives.”

Knowing where airmen are on weekends or holidays also ensures they can be recalled quickly, if need be, for a deployment, hazardous weather or other real-world operations, Rockwell said.

The policy applies to all airmen on base, enlisted members and officers, regardless of rank. The pass policy also applies to base-sponsored events, such as trips with the Single Airmen Xtreme, or SAX, program and with Misawa’s Information, Tickets and Tours events that are outside the four-hour range, according to Rockwell.

Tech. Sgt. Stanley Lawrence of the 35th Maintenance Operations Squadron said one of his airmen recently sought a written pass for a SAX trip to Tokyo over New Year’s.

The approval process took three or four days because in his squadron it has to be routed through the squadron first sergeant and squadron commander.

“It’s all about accountability, just in case you don’t make it back … they’re covering. I can understand that, but we are more isolated than Yokota,” Lawrence said.

Besides Sendai, there’s not much within four hours, he said, meaning supervisors likely will be asked to approve a lot of written passes, and airmen will have to plan activities in advance.

“You can’t just wake up and say, ‘I’m going to go to Tokyo,’” he said.

Rockwell said there is no limit on the number of passes. The policy states, “Liberal use of written passes is encouraged for travel beyond the four hour travel time window.”

Special passes, however, may not be taken in succession or in conjunction with leave, per Air Force guidance. The passes are for travel within the Honshu or Hokkaido islands only and for a period of four days or less.

A written pass, Rockwell said, could be an e-mail on a Friday to an airman’s supervisor requesting a pass to go to Tokyo for the weekend. “As long as your boss replies yes, then that’s considered a written pass,” he said.

Each commander or supervisor can add to the policy. For instance, the medical group has a form that airmen must submit to get a written pass.

Senior Airman Ariel Borge of the 35th Medical Operations Squadron said he’s not bothered by the policy but can see how some might think it’s restrictive.

“I think it’s good to be able to be recalled” in a timely manner, “but it does put a little bit of a burden on plans because we have to be accounted for all of the time,” he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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