Sailors to serve longer at Marine posts in Japan
Effective immediately, sailors serving in Japan with U.S. Marine Corps units on Okinawa, and on the mainland at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, will serve longer tours.
The bulk of these Navy servicemembers are hospital corpsmen, dental technicians, religious program personnel and other specialists.
Unaccompanied sailors serving with Marines are governed by Marine Corps policy requiring a two-year tour, the Navy Personnel Command announced in a news report Wednesday. Until now, sailors on unaccompanied tours served one-year tours.
Unaccompanied sailors at Camp Fuji, an isolated facility, will continue one-year stints.
Accompanied sailors serve three-year tours.
“In the past, a DOD tour-length exception was made for very isolated duty stations or those that didn’t meet quality-of-life standards,” Lt. Cmdr. Denise Holdridge, assistant branch head for hospital corpsman and dental technician assignments at the personnel command in Millington, Tenn., said in the report.
“Dramatic improvements in living conditions and an overall improved infrastructure in Japan has begun, which will eventually eliminate … the need for exception to the policy,” she added.
Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa Wimbush, a religious program specialist at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station’s chaplain’s office, said, “It’s only certain rates that this would affect but I see that it has some good points and some disadvantages.
“For those who are single, two years is good. It goes by just as fast as one year, it seems, and it gives them a chance to come and see more of this part of the world,” she said Wednesday.
“But for those who are married and accompanied, or married and they come unaccompanied, I think the Navy better be very careful in the screening process.
“That length of time could put a real strain on a family. If they come married and unaccompanied, it could be devastating to a marriage. So the screening is all important,” she said.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Romeo Celestino, senior enlisted advisor at Iwakuni’s Navy Branch Medical Clinic, said he agreed with Wimbush on one point and spotlighted a financial consideration.
“It’s good for the sailor having an extra year to stay in Japan if you happen to like the command and the country,” he said.
“Also, the command will benefit from having personnel who are attached for at least two years. The Navy then will save more money from not moving personnel too frequently.”
Officials say they will honor the original rotation dates of unaccompanied sailors already serving one-year tours on Okinawa with the Third Marine Expeditionary Force or Marine Corps Bases Japan. In addition, they will honor those rotating who already have started separating from their assigned units in anticipation of departure.
Holdridge stated that sailors already here could volunteer to stay for a second year via the Overseas Tour Extension Incentive Program. If they attain sponsorship for their spouses and command approval, accompanied sailors on one-year tours may elect to change to a three-year stint.
“Navy personnel still with their commands will be issued modified orders extending their time,” she explained in the report.
The Navy Personnel Command said individual questions about the new policy should be directed to Master Chief Petty Officer Denise Brown at email@example.com, or by calling 901-874-3806 or DSN 882-3806.