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Petty Officer 3rd Class Coral Laster, a damage controlman with the Fleet and Family Support Center, loads trash bags into a truck during her rotation with the Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka duty section.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Coral Laster, a damage controlman with the Fleet and Family Support Center, loads trash bags into a truck during her rotation with the Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka duty section. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

Petty Officer 3rd Class Coral Laster, a damage controlman with the Fleet and Family Support Center, loads trash bags into a truck during her rotation with the Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka duty section.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Coral Laster, a damage controlman with the Fleet and Family Support Center, loads trash bags into a truck during her rotation with the Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka duty section. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

About a dozen new trash receptacles like this one have been installed across Yokosuka Naval Base in an effort to eliminate litter.

About a dozen new trash receptacles like this one have been installed across Yokosuka Naval Base in an effort to eliminate litter. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Yokosuka Naval Base Commander Capt. Gregory Cornish is using a dozen new trash cans, an appeal to the community and an eagle eye to nip a nagging problem in the bud: litter.

In two columns published last month in the weekly base newspaper Seahawk, Cornish asked the community to help stamp out litter and graffiti.

“It’s to make sure people take care of the community,” Cornish told Stars and Stripes last week. “I’m putting a call out … to make sure people respect their neighbors and clean up the community.”

The problem isn’t rampant, he added, but on a base that is home or workplace to more than 20,000 people, even a little can add up to a mess.

Last month, about a dozen new trash receptacles were added to common areas and places where people typically walk, Cornish said.

With the receptacles in place, now he’s asking for a mind-set change — to persuade everyone to dispose of litter and cigarette butts properly.

Cornish said he has asked the duty section and transient personnel unit to take extra care cleaning up litter and emptying trash cans.

However, he cautions, “I don’t want the community to rely on them.”

Cornish also has turned his attention to graffiti.

“That one is the real zero-tolerance one for me,” he said. “It’s not acceptable.”

Graffiti crops up every few weeks or so on Yokosuka or Ikego in places such as schools and common-use pavilions, he said.

It’s not a big problem, he said, but one that’s unacceptable whatever its size.

“It’s just a minor nuisance that we want to get rid of immediately,” Cornish said.

He said some residents might be used to differing stateside attitudes toward graffiti, but a less-pressing issue at home is a big problem in a small overseas enclave such as Yokosuka.

It also draws resources from the community. “For every dollar we spend running around taking care of things like graffiti or picking up trash, it’s one less dollar” available for youth center or MWR programs, Cornish said. “It drags resources and it drags people away from things that could better serve the community.”

The punishments are harsh for those caught defacing base property. Active-duty servicemembers can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Dependents face a trip to the civilian administrative forum and community service or worse, depending on the severity of damage.

Cornish said he hopes problems won’t intensify during the summer, when schools are in recess. He also hopes parents will get involved and keep kids from expressing themselves on a wall or pavilion.

Keeping the base clean is a community effort but one that rewards everyone, he added — one going well so far although “there are a couple of areas we could do better as a community.”


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