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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The top U.S. enlisted leader in South Korea defended an upcoming policy requiring E-5’s and E-6’s to get command authorization before buying or using personal vehicles.

Because the vast majority of traffic violations — particularly alcohol-related incidents — were committed by those ranks, U.S. Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Welch said, the current policy allowing them to have cars needed to be revisited. Welch made the comments during “From the Top,” a radio call-in program broadcast the first Friday of each month.

Welch pointed to two deadly alcohol-related crashes involving servicemembers in recent months, one in which a South Korean woman was killed and another in which an Army soldier was killed.

“I’m not sure what an acceptable body count is, but one is too many for me,” Welch said, noting that officials went over traffic records for the past three years and identified in what ranks most violations occurred.

“At some point, the command has a responsibility to look at that,” he said.

The new policy will require E-5s and E-6s, currently authorized to have personal vehicles, to submit a justification memo to their unit commander if they wish to keep their cars. E-1s through E-4s have not been allowed to own vehicles.

“If your reason for having a POV is leisure, well, you might consider a bicycle,” Welch said. “If the need is there, the commander will make a decision … It’s not a blanket wipeout, check your keys at the door.”

About half of the callers to the hourlong show brought up the vehicle policy change. Others brought up questions about dining facility hours and meal options for soldiers who work overnight shifts or belong to transportation battalions and are constantly on the road between camps.

Earlier in the program, Welch addressed the issue of sexual assaults within the military, calling on leaders of all levels to ensure the issue was getting a proper airing with the troops. “I ask that you develop classes and programs, and educate the leadership and the young soldiers,” he said. “Let’s crack down on this, because it’s unacceptable behavior.”

Welch also began the show by asking servicemembers to “minimize” the wearing of uniforms off post. “Because of the current political situation, which we won’t get into,” Welch said, referring to the turmoil over the South Korean president’s impeachment, servicemembers should try and avoid wearing uniforms in public off post.


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