Sailors at Yokosuka tolerant of drinking restrictions, curfews
January 22, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Embarrassment and shame are what USS Kitty Hawk airman Matthew Brucker said he feels when talking to his Japanese in-laws about recent crimes his fellow Navy members are accused of committing.
He called new restrictions on off-base activities a way for the “bigwigs” to counter the disturbing trend.
“Every time the Japanese hear about us, it’s because we’ve done something wrong,” Brucker said. “I’ve been here for three years and the liberty incidents used to be on the small stuff, like vandalism. The crimes are more serious now … something has to be done.”
He referred to the Kitty Hawk airman accused in the Jan. 3 fatal beating and robbery of a 56-year-old Yokosuka woman and the USS John McCain sailor accused of breaking into a local school last Wednesday. Japanese police reports stated both incidents involved alcohol.
Now, public drinking hours are restricted for all Yokosuka-area status of forces agreement personnel, and the Kitty Hawk Strike Group has a curfew.
Commander, Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. James Kelly has barred SOFA-status military and nonmilitary personnel and their dependents from public drinking outside the base after 11 p.m. during the week and 1 a.m. on weekends and holidays. Drinking at on-base establishments is barred after midnight Sunday through Thursday and after 2 a.m. on weekends and holidays.
Rear Adm. Doug McClain, Kitty Hawk Strike Group commander, ordered his servicemembers to be on base or in their off-base homes by 1 a.m. every day.
The curfew “may be modified. It may not be modified,” said strike group spokesman Lt. Cmdr. John Bernard. “But for right now, everyone has to be off the streets by 1 a.m.”
Most of the policing likely will be done informally, from one sailor to another, said regional Master Chief Luis Cruz.
“We want our buddies, our shipmates, to be looking out for one another. There may be an occasion where a sailor may, for whatever reason, have had too many cocktails — too many drinks — and we want … his shipmate to intervene and ensure that he doesn’t fall into harm’s way,” Cruz said Friday.
Enforcement also will come from increased police checks in neighborhoods around the base, according to a CNFJ news release.
Civilian Elena Tavai said she doesn’t mind the policy.
“We’re losing face in Asia — in Okinawa, in the Philippines and now in Japan,” Tavai said. “A few bad people can make things worse for all of us. We’re all affected.”
But Cruz, the master chief, stressed that “the vast majority of people are doing the right thing. We have 9,800 sailors who are part of a professional work force that is doing great things for the stability of the Far East.”
“This is not a punishment,” he said. “It’s being responsible.”
However, Seaman Crystal Hill said it feels like punishment. For her, the curfew means more time on a ship — the USS Kitty Hawk — crammed into berthing with 200 people.
“It makes me mad,” she said. “I have never had a liberty incident. I worked hard to get a blue (liberty) card, which now doesn’t do me any good. I even need to get special, advance permission just for an evening out in Roppongi.
“I think this will be bad for morale and will lead to less people trying to get qualified for blue cards. Why bother?”