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Courtnae Sims, a program assistant at Kadena Youth Programs, pumps gas at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, on Tuesday. "Oh, I should have waited," said Sims after hearing the news Tuesday that AAFES will lower gas prices Friday. Sims, whose husband is a Marine, said the lower price should save her about $20 a month.
Courtnae Sims, a program assistant at Kadena Youth Programs, pumps gas at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, on Tuesday. "Oh, I should have waited," said Sims after hearing the news Tuesday that AAFES will lower gas prices Friday. Sims, whose husband is a Marine, said the lower price should save her about $20 a month. (Photo by Natasha Lee/S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — People who buy gasoline on bases in mainland Japan and Okinawa will have a little more green to buy other things on Black Friday.

On the traditional big shopping day after Thanksgiving, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is dropping its price for midgrade unleaded gas for the first time since it shot up to $4.06 per gallon in July.

The price for a gallon of midgrade unleaded will be pegged at $2.43, a $1.63 decrease, AAFES announced Tuesday. Prices at Navy Exchanges follow those set by AAFES.

The 40 percent reduction, however, still leaves prices 40 cents higher than the $2.03 average cost for midgrade unleaded in the United States, according to Department of Energy figures.

Nevertheless, word of the decrease had customers ecstatic.

"That’s awesome," said Ted Monto, an Air Force dependent at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo. "About time."

"You just made my day," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Monique Maldonado of the 18th Operations Support Squadron at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. She flashed a "thumbs-up" sign as she filled up her Toyota Windom. It usually takes about $60, she said.

Maldonado said she figures the cut in gas prices will save her between $30 to $40 a month. That will allow her to put more money toward holiday shopping and groceries.

"It makes me feel happy that my money is going to go somewhere else than just this gas tank," she said.

Since 2004, gas prices on military bases in Japan stayed an average of 13 cents below the national average, but that changed when the Defense Comptroller’s Office set prices to catch up to the rise in the U.S. market earlier this year.

That 34 percent increase was handed down to the Defense Energy Support Center, which passed on the cost to AAFES and Navy Exchange retailers.

The exchange retailers add 12 cents for overhead and then deduct the 25-cent-per-gallon subsidy from the government of Japan.

"The sell price Friday is the lowest AAFES can go without losing money," said Air Force Master Sgt. Donovan Potter, a spokesman for AAFES headquarters on Okinawa.

He said the DESC was the most economical fuel supplier available to the U.S. military in Japan.

Gas prices for South Korea and Guam were not affected by the DESC rates because AAFES buys gas wholesale from private local suppliers. The current price for a gallon of unleaded in South Korea is $2.74 and $2.68 for a gallon of the same grade on Guam.

On Yokosuka Naval Base, Lt. April Malveo from the USS Lassen said the $4.06 price during the past few months was testing her patience.

"I hated it," she said. "I was back in the States recently and the gas was so much cheaper."

At Kadena, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeff Rash of the 18th Logistic Readiness Squadron limited his stop at the pump to $15 after hearing about the break in gas prices.

"It usually takes at least $58 to $60 to fill up," he said of his Toyota Surf. "I’m going to tell the people in my shop to wait until Friday."

Rash said he expected gas prices to be high overseas, but also expected prices to be lower than those at service stations out in town.

"It’s bothered me, but what are you going to do?" he said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Natasha Lee, Tim Wightman and Bryce Dubee contributed to this report.

Average midgrade prices

Now: $4.06

Friday: $2.43

Stateside: $2.03

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