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FUTENMA MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Okinawa — Japanese authorities detained a Marine on Monday at Naha International Airport for carrying machine-gun bullets in her baggage.

The Marine, a sergeant with Futenma’s Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, was attempting to board an All Nippon Airways flight to Osaka, Japan, to catch a connecting flight to the United States, Marine Corps officials said.

When she passed through an airport security scanner, officials found 18 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition in her possession, said 2nd Lt. Z.S. Riggle, a spokesman for the Marines on Okinawa.

The 22-year-old Marine said she had just returned from Afghanistan and inadvertently left the training bullets in her bag, according to police officials quoted in Japanese newspapers.

Federal laws governing air transportation in the States do not allow airline passengers to include ammunition in their carry-on baggage, according to the Transportation Security Administration Web site ( Some airlines permit ammunition in checked baggage but, in those cases, passengers must declare the items at the check-in counter before passing through the security checkpoint. Taking a prohibited item to a security checkpoint — even accidentally — is illegal, the TSA Web site states. Passengers who take prohibited items to a checkpoint may be criminally and/or civilly prosecuted or, at the least, asked to get rid of the item.

The TSA, established by an executive order in November 2001 following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, protects U.S. transportation systems.

Japanese authorities did not charge or assume jurisdiction over the Marine but handed her to U.S. military police custody, Riggle said.

Naha police said even though the bullets were for training, all Marines should know not to carry them in civilian areas. It infringes upon Japan’s gun-control law.

The Marine Corps gives command briefings to all Marines assigned to Okinawa, warning of Japanese gun-control and firearms regulations.

As with weapons in general, Japanese law is strict regarding possession of ammunition, according to newcomers’ arrival information on the official Marine Corps Okinawa Web page (

The possession of ammunition off-base requires permits issued by both U.S. military and local government authorities, the site states. In all other instances, ammunition must be stored in authorized on-base storage facilities as designated by the commanders. Sale or transfer of ammunition to Japanese or third-country nationals is strictly prohibited.

In November, another Okinawa Marine, Lance Cpl. Preston W. Earl, received a suspended three-year sentence for smuggling a handgun into Japan following a deployment to the Philippines. In that case, Earl mailed gun parts to the addresses of three friends on Okinawa. Customs officials’ X-ray machines detected the components.

Naha police said they turned the Marine over to military authorities because she still was on duty.

Riggle said the incident is under investigation.


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