Misawa institutes liberty card program
For the first time, Misawa Air Base in northern Japan has adopted a liberty-card program for all military personnel, whether they’re permanently assigned or on temporary duty.
The order, issued by Brig. Gen. Sam Angelella, 35th Fighter Wing commander, took effect Friday. It apparently was spawned by several recent events, including three drunken-driving cases over Labor Day weekend still under investigation and an alleged hit-and-run incident involving a U.S. sailor last Monday night.
“It was not solely because of that,” said Maj. John Redfield, a 35th Fighter Wing spokesman.
“The commander is just re-emphasizing that we’re all ambassadors. We need to do a good job of representing our military, government and country. We believe we have great community relations here. It’s important to keep it that way.”
Green cards, allowing off-base access at any time, were given to noncommissioned officers and officers, he said. Servicemembers ranked E-4 and below generally have red cards. Red-card holders living on base are restricted to the installation from midnight to 5 a.m. weekdays and 1-5 a.m. weekends.
Off-base residents under the same category must be in their homes during the same times, unless they’re reporting to work or performing official duties, Redfield said.
Anyone is subject to a red card if they’ve had an incident.
Likewise, junior enlisted members may earn green cards after a period of good behavior, based on an individual commander’s discretion.
The directive, which Angelella said he’s considered for some time, would be reviewed quarterly.
“Traditionally, a lot of our problems that are alcohol-related can be attributed to our youngest military members between the hours of midnight and 5 in the morning,” he said. “That’s where we got those times. It’s just an extra reminder to them. On the back of the card, it reminds people that the No.1 reason is to maintain a good relationship with the Misawa citizens. We also want to minimize the disturbances downtown on the weekends and also during the week.”
The back of the card also states that violators of the liberty-card policy can be punished under military law covering a breach of a general order.
Last Monday night, a U.S. sailor whose name has not been released, allegedly left the scene of a two-car accident on a Misawa city road that left a local Japanese woman hospitalized. Misawa police said Friday they have yet to refer the case to the prosecutor’s office.
Angelella said the restriction isn’t meant as a punishment, acknowledging the vast majority of Misawa servicemembers avoid trouble when they head outside the gates.
“I always remind everyone that I’m not punishing the good behavior. It’s just a reminder to maybe that 1 percent or less that might have an inkling to stray toward trouble to stay away from it,” he said.
“Just because you have a red card, it doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. It just means you’re in that high-risk area and I’m going to help … make sure you’re home safe and sound during those dangerous hours.”
Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.