September 22

Safety trumps no-beard rule

Letters index(Click on date to jump ahead)

September 22 Safety trumps no-beard rule AFN censored news coverage

September 23 Overseas tours change is good

September 24 Saddam smarter than we think Movie price boost too much

September 25 Variety and the five-year rule Unaccompanied tours’ upside

September 26 Germany has stake in tours … … and so do U.S. spouses

September 27 Marshall Plan needed for Iraq Finding right job is hard work

September 28 Drugs don’t define Okinawa

“All that it takes for bad policy to flourish is a good soldier not willing to do enough to stop it.”

I am writing in response to the Sept. 14 Stars and Stripes article that stated special operations soldiers in theater must now shave their beards and cut their hair (“Close shave the order of the day”). I am not in the special operations community, but I took an interest in this story and felt obligated to write.

This story brought back memories of an article about a soldier who stepped on a land mine in Kosovo (“Land mine takes soldier’s foot, not his cool,” Stars and Stripes, June 28, 2001). In Kosovo, it was against policy for a medic on a rescue mission to administer any type of medication to ease the soldier’s pain, despite that the soldier had just had his foot blown off by a land mine. That policy put that soldier’s life at risk; he might possibly go into shock from the pain.

How does this story relate to shaving story? The policies and regulations in both scenarios could needlessly cost soldiers their lives. The policy requiring soldiers to shave may have even more dire consequences than in the above scenario. If policy-makers take away our special operations soldiers’ ability to blend in with the native culture, the soldiers are needlessly put in danger.

If anyone is screaming: “These guys aren’t special, they should have the same standards as the rest of the Army,” I would reply with this: Put down your excuses outlining why you can’t do it, call your local Special Forces recruiter and go try it yourself. Maybe in a couple of years if you make the assessment and if you make the school, you can grow a beard, too.

I have also heard the argument that a protective mask won’t seal with facial hair. That may be true, but these are not first-term soldiers. These are lifelong soldiers (whose life may now be shorter than anticipated), who can make the decision and know the risks. Let them decide which is more secure, blending in or being able to don a protective mask. If they blend in well enough, logically, they won’t need the mask.

These are special situations for soldiers doing a special job. I would like to give them all the tools and advantages possible to do it successfully so we never have a repeat of an attack on America.

Sgt. 1st Class Steven DayVicenza, Italy

AFN censored news coverage

I was appalled by American Forces Network television’s flagrant censorship when it didn’t show the lead piece of “20/20” on the slaying of spouses at Fort Bragg, N.C. The segment was the only part of the show that was replaced by breaking news. The news was CNN covering a press conference about the arrests of terrorist suspects in New York. The subject of the news conference was never provided, and AFN returned to “20/20” as soon as the next segment began. Are the powers that be afraid to bring up the subject of domestic violence in public?

For the last four years, I’ve served on the case review committee for spouse and child abuse at Fort Lewis, Wash. We met six times each month. Information and awareness does much to end domestic/family violence. Too often commanders’ opinions of their soldiers are formed only through seeing the soldiers at work. Often a report was that “Soldier X” was one of the best soldiers in the unit, and why were we harassing him? It was the rare commander who would seek treatment and help for his soldiers and help protect family members from further violence.

We need to bring domestic violence out of the closet. It is through secrecy and shame that family violence is allowed to exist. If there are problems, let’s seek solutions before any more deaths occur. Censoring a program that addresses domestic violence will only allow domestic violence to continue.

We will not make domestic violence in the Army go away by burying our heads in the sand. This program concerning the slayings at Fort Bragg needs to be shown on AFN TV.

Chaplain (Maj.) Stephen FryMarriage and family therapistDarmstadt, Germany

September 23

Overseas tours change is good

I applaud the announcement by Army Secretary Thomas White that indicated that overseas tours will someday be unaccompanied. My wife and I hope the study of this proposal will be brief and that the plan will be implemented quickly.

I was surprised to read the letters from some people who whined and complained about the proposal. They said they won’t stay in the Army if the plan goes into effect. If this proposal is all it takes to make their commitment to the Army and our nation waver, I’d hate to see them under combat conditions.

Thanks to our last president, I can think of some other more critical reasons why to leave the Army. But the implementation of this plan is not one of them. On the contrary, this proposal would be a reason for true soldiers to stay in the Army and serve their country.

Sure, there would be some transitional discomforts at first if the plan were implemented, such as sporadic bouts of homesickness and the associated crying for mother. But the overall benefits to the Army would be great. Deployments with cohesive units would mean greater esprit de corps, and teamwork would be enhanced. Soldiers would be more focused on the mission at hand instead of being distracted by day-to-day family issues that can just as well be handled by a competent spouse. Families of deployed soldiers would be settled, safe and secure on their home soil during this time of war.

A lot of money would also be saved by the elimination of “pork barrel” family support infrastructure, which is already established and functioning in the States. The military police wouldn’t have to respond to such crimes as domestic violence situations. They wouldn’t have to arrest dependents who are involved in illegal drug sales and all the other associated social problems that dysfunctional families bring with them on an overseas tour.

If a family is established on the firm foundation of traditional family values (which seem to be scoffed at nowadays), and both husband and wife are of good character, then a 6- to 12-month overseas tour would be a minor inconvenience. All a well-prepared soldier would need when he leaves his home for a deployment is a good family-readiness plan and a faithful spouse.

But here are some suggestions the Army should consider that would lessen the occurrence of potential problems:

The Army should ensure that the people studying this plan are not liberals and are educated in the social sciences. We don’t need liberals destroying this plan before it’s even off the ground.The Army should ensure that recruiters fully explain to married individuals and their spouses the sacrifices that would be expected of them in order to serve their country, such as knowing, understanding and practicing the concepts of Army values and traditional family values.Upon entering the Army, married soldiers should not be assigned to a unit that is scheduled to deploy in less than six months after arrival. This would give families time to get their households in order and family-readiness plans developed.Have single female soldiers legally ensure that they will practice reproductive responsibility by not getting pregnant while assigned to a deployable unit. Those single-parent soldiers who are already enlisted in the Army would be assigned to nondeployable units.For soldiers on 12-month (or longer) deployments, the Army would provide easier access on space-available flights to and from Europe, as well as access to accommodations for soldiers who are on leave.Reduce the amount of commitments we make to other countries to police their territories. More times than not, they end up being ungrateful toward America.Previous letter writers have implied that the recent slayings at Fort Bragg, N.C., were attributable to the deployments of the soldiers involved. This is false. The letter writers avoided considering the concept of personal responsibility and accountability. This is a common liberal practice today. Those Fort Bragg soldiers allegedly took it upon themselves to willingly and knowingly take the lives of others as a method of conflict resolution because they lacked some important core values and morals. It was not because they were deployed away from their families.

I’m sure Secretary White’s proposal would not cause us to kill our spouses and children. But the challenge for the Army, to put it figuratively, would be to get good fruit off society’s tree when our past leaders (and some current ones) have been poisoning its root system.

Billy G. WillettHeidelberg, Germany

September 24

Saddam smarter than we think

I do not understand the war talk. For the last few months I have heard our leaders, and other world leaders, say that unless Saddam Hussein lets the weapons inspectors back into Iraq, we were going to invade. But now that Saddam Hussein says that the inspectors can return, we refuse to believe him. It appears that if we can get the coalition up again, we are going to attack Iraq, no matter what is said or done.

It is kind of difficult for the average person to figure out what is going on. Are we anxious to go to war because we have nothing else to do, or are we going into combat because the economy needs a boost, or maybe one war at a time is not enough, or could this be some sort of tribal thing, us against him? Another question that bothers me: Why are we anxious to attack an old demon when we still have not gotten the one responsible for 9/11?

I find it hard to believe all the rhetoric that says we must stop Saddam Hussein before he uses his weapons on us, or on one of our allies. We are assuming that he is stupid enough to do something that will guarantee his demise. Saddam Hussein may be many things, but he is not stupid.

No one was too upset when China threatened to use military force on Taiwan just because Taiwan was talking about being independent. Independence — isn’t that what we are all about? If Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, he either bought them or some nation sold him the parts. Where were we when all these business transactions were going on?

If you believe what you read in the newspapers, Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, but no one seems to care. The world is full of bullies who treat their citizens poorly, buy all kinds of sophisticated weapons and cause serious problems for a lot of people. I do not see us running to stop them.

So what is really going on? Is this really about peace and security in the Middle East? I do not hear too many Arab countries yelling for help. Didn’t one of our leaders say: “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.” So why are they trying? I am just as patriotic as the next person, but I do not think we should go running off to war without some pretty strong reasons. We have had too many conflicts that the politicians managed to mess up, and the military had to pay the price. Most of the “missing in action” or “killed in action” are usually military, not politicians. Once one of these things starts, the focus is quite different: The politician is concerned with national appearances while the soldier is concerned with staying alive.

Our government is trying to convince the United Nations, and the world, that we have valid reasons for attacking Iraq. I think officials should start by focusing on the American public — and I mean the people on the street, not Congress. Tell us why we should be willing to sacrifice American troops in such a cavalier and frivolous fashion.

Another invasion in the desert might be an extremely short and painful experience for the American soldier; after all, we have given Saddam Hussein plenty of notice that we are coming. Only a fool would not be ready. To lose one life is one too many.

Engaging in mortal combat is not the best thing we have ever done. President Truman once said: “War throws civilization into the dark ages.” So, why are we so anxious to go to war?

Clifton J. JesterKadena Air Base, Okinawa

Movie price boost too much

I always hated the trivial e-mails from readers, and here I am submitting one.

Just a simple question: Why did the Army and Air Force Exchange Service raise the price for renting videos? Since I have not seen a drastic jump in its overhead to obtain these items, I don’t understand any other motivation other than to increase profits. I used to rent three to five movies a week from AAFES, but my friends and I now decided to rent ours downtown since new releases are only 250 yen ($2.13) instead of the outrageous $2.95 AAFES charges.

I would like to hear the justification for this new price increase. AAFES just lost my rental fees.

Bob WhiteTorii Station, Okinawa

September 25

Variety and the five-year rule

I’d like to comment on an aspect of the five-year employment rule that I have not seen addressed previously. I really like it, and here’s why: It’s 4:30 a.m. in early April of 1991 in Portland, Ore. The phone rings. “Mr. O’Neill? This is Teresa Eurito of HRO in Naples, Italy. Would you accept the position of ship surveyor in Naples if it was offered to you?” I had been hoping for this call for more than a year and, of course, I accepted without hesitation. The excitement was tremendous. There were lots of phone calls to friends and family to shout, “We’re going to Italy!”

Our tour from July 1991 to July 1994 was one of the highlights of our lives. Two stepdaughters were in our entourage, and the third one visited while we were there. There were family tours to Corfu, Garmisch and Ramstein, Germany, and official travel for me to Israel, Ireland, Gibraltar, France, Rhodes and so forth. Three years went by in the blink of an eye, and we left thinking, “There was still so much we missed!”

After a year and some months at home in Seattle, that vague itch on the soles of my feet turned into three years in Yokosuka, Japan, as a production controller. We had wonderful neighbors who would come over to tell us that our clothes were hanging outside when it was going to rain. There were the beautiful sights of “Fuji-san” temples, bullet trains, the Hakone Region and the Izu Peninsula, and trips to Guam, Hong Kong, South Korea and the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo.

Again, three years passed much too quickly and we were once again picking up fresh salmon at Pike Place Market for a Saturday barbecue with family in Seattle.

After another year at the “Parent Command,” SUPSHIP Puget Sound, things were slowing down. So I browsed the Department of Navy Human Resources Web site and, lo and behold, it was looking for surveyors in Naples again. After another “o-dark thirty” call, September of 2000 found Becky and I back in the American Hotel in Agnano and house-hunting once again.

The point of all this is that if it weren’t for the five-year rule, I may never have experienced the incredible opportunities that service overseas provides. I know folks in both places who have been in their jobs for more than 20 years. Are they doing good work? Of course they are. The thing is that four or more other families could have benefited from the experience in Europe or Japan and didn’t get to because the billets never opened for them.

As for the argument that a lot of money is saved by not having to PCS folks back and forth, it’s “as thin as the soup you’d get if you boiled the shadow of a pigeon that had died of starvation!” (Abraham Lincoln). I’d be real curious to see whether all of that “saved” money has directly benefited any of the commands involved. In fact, when I hear that argument I’m reminded of a “Blondie” cartoon I saw in Stripes some years ago. Blondie walks into the house with her arms full of packages and says to Dagwood, “All the stores were having sales. I saved us $150!” “Great,” Dagwood says. “Show it to me.”

As far as I’m concerned, the five-year rule is a good deal. I’d just like to see it applied more evenhandedly so more folks could take advantage of it.

Dennis E. O’NeillNaples, Italy

Unaccompanied tours’ upside

The ongoing debate about the Army’s study of unaccompanied tours for Europe has mainly focused on the negative aspects and the obvious — more time away from families. But no one has considered some of the potential benefits to soldiers, their families and the federal budget.

Currently, many Army soldiers deploy here with their families and then deploy downrange for a multitude of missions. The families are faced with extended periods of time alone in a foreign world, with no family nearby, limited employment opportunities, limited child care and few of the conveniences we find in America. Some military bases are in parts of Europe that are, well, let’s call them “less-than-ideal tourist spots.” For families living in a stairwell unit, life can be a challenge and sometimes unpleasant.

The Army’s proposed plan may offer many soldiers an opportunity to:

set roots for their families and their children in a location of their choice;use their VA benefits to buy houses for their families and build equity (wealth);enjoy stability in schools, churches and communities for their children;allow their spouses to find long-term, meaningful employment at market wages; andhave a place we truly call “home.”I know some of it may appear simplistic. But these are real benefits. Some readers may offer a rebuttal or have a personal benefit of an accompanied tour in Europe. But many people also count the days until the “wake up.”

Here are some of the less-tangible benefits:

less wear and tear on our household goods and cars due to shipping;fewer concerns about leaving or shipping pets;not having to return home on vacations to see loved ones (Many would be able to drive home on long weekends and could save their leave time for a real vacation in the United States or Europe);more opportunities and services for our children; andovercoming not being able to buy and travel on the economy because the exchange rate is low.Leaving our families is difficult, and I, too, have experienced the sadness and trauma. But aren’t many readers doing that now? Aren’t today’s soldiers enduring a fast operations tempo in which they are constantly preparing, deploying or recovering from some operation in a distant land? I’d rather see my spouse and kids in their house, with their things, in their world and not worry about the force protection measure back home or their relative isolation.

As taxpayers, the cost of maintaining our large forces abroad is very high. The cost of a family’s PCS includes airfare, shipping of household goods and vehicles, and as much as a month of productivity on either end of the move. Our large footprint also requires expensive force protection measures and a cadre of personnel. We demand a high quality of life on our bases, and the military must find the resources to meet our expectations.

After World War II, Harry Truman’s Marshall Plan brought political and military stability to Europe. Our presence inspired investment and, I believe, resulted in the peaceful and successful European Union. Ronald Reagan invested heavily in our military, which resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union and an end to the Cold War. Our job in Europe is done. And just like other countries’ occupying forces that have reduced their presence in Germany, so should the United States. Our strategic alliance with Europe doesn’t require the whole family.

I think within our lifetimes we’ll see the return of accompanied tours to other parts of the world where our presence, military power and investment will stabilize the political and economic conditions of a region. Our presence and commitment inspires investment, creates jobs, develops infrastructure and makes the world a better, safer place. That’s what we, the world’s only real superpower, should be doing.

Mike TroyanoKaiserslautern, Germany

September 26

Germany has stake in tours …

A lot has been written recently about Army Secretary Thomas White’s announcement that the status of accompanied tours in Europe is being reviewed and may be changed. Though there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I have not noticed anyone pointing out that this could be a purely political move that has nothing to do with the Army family and a lot to do with the United States’ current relationship with Germany.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said that Germany will not support military action against Iraq under any circumstances. Germany has also refused to extradite a suspected terrorist apprehended in Hamburg to the United States because of our laws allowing the death penalty. Further, there was a great deal of what could only be described as foot-dragging by the German polizei in acting on the tip relayed by the U.S. military police regarding the two terror suspects recently arrested in Heidelberg.

These are only a few reasons for the U.S. government to be irritated with (and disappointed in) the German government. These may be reasons for the United States to give a gentle political warning to Germany without jeopardizing the United States’ ability to be so prominently forward deployed.

Making Europe an unaccompanied tour would undoubtedly hurt the German economy. Think of all the German nationals who work on the various installations throughout the country. If family members were not allowed to accompany soldiers to Germany, many facilities and activities — everything from exchanges to maintenance shops — would close or be greatly downsized. This would result in many lost jobs. Fewer Americans living in Germany would also mean less money spent on the German economy. Could Germany really afford this? This would be a drop in the bucket when compared with the contempt of the United States.

Naturally I have no hard information to suggest that the U.S. government is toying with our emotions when it is only concerned with making the German government nervous. Obviously no government official would admit to it if it were the case. Certainly we would not want to risk being unable to use our strategically important bases here in the war on terror. But could this all be a political maneuver to make Chancellor Schroeder think about the consequences of being less than supportive of U.S. interests? Maybe so.

Kristil LittleMannheim, Germany

… and so do U.S. spouses

I’m a spouse in Europe with my husband. I’m also an educational aide at an elementary school. Several of my co-workers and I were discussing the military’s proposal to change all overseas tours to dependent-free. There are more people who will get out of the military if this change is made. My husband is making plans to retire from the military. If this change is made, he has said that he’ll get out.

The military needs a lot more men and women than it has now. There will be a lot fewer people who will enlist or re-enlist if the change is made. The military may save money, but it would be hurting its forces.

We love our family members who are stateside very much. But I’d rather be with my husband for three years in Europe than be stateside waiting for him to come home. Even if this change happens, there’s no guarantee that we’ll be stationed close enough to go see family while our servicemembers are gone.

I’m happier here in Europe than I ever was stateside. Since we’ve been here, many things have improved a lot. There’s nothing in the world that would ever make me regret being here. I know I can’t see my family whenever I want, but there are so many other ways to stay in touch. Even if people don’t have a phone or a computer, Army Community Services and the military libraries provide Internet access.

If the military makes this change, not only will it be hurting the forces that the military needs, it will also be hurting the families of enlisted soldiers.

Holly NorthrupHanau, Germany

September 27

Marshall Plan needed for Iraq

I offer these comments regarding key concepts we need to remember in the war on terrorism, the fate of the United Nations, appeasement and the Marshall Plan.

The end of the major European wars of the latter part of the 1800s ushered in a time of peace and advancement in culture and industry. What wasn’t public were the secret pacts, secret alliances, secret handshakes and head nods, and double-secret pacts and double crosses. These back-room dealings would lead the world into the “war to end all wars,” World War I. Virtually every country around the world found itself obligated to go to war based on these pacts and agreements, and not necessarily for the advancement of a strategic or economic goal.

World leaders had this in the backs of their minds when they met at the peace table in Versailles in 1919 in an effort to prevent another calamity of great proportions. The predecessor to the United Nations, the League of Nations, passed judgment on the losers in terms of war payments and sanctions. These sanctions, primarily against Germany, led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Hitler was masterful in his manipulation of the League of Nations in his attempts to bring the German people out from the devastating effects of postwar sanctions. Nazi Germany’s “annexation” of Austria and its invasion of most of Europe mocked appeasement and hand slaps by the League of Nations. At the same time, Japan was given appeasement in the form of a large chunk of the Asian continent and most of the Pacific. The future leaders of the post-World War II world took note and incorporated these lessons learned (especially from Versailles and the League of Nations) in the formation of the United Nations and the development of the Marshall Plan.

Unless one is an American living in Europe today, one wouldn’t recognize the impact of the Marshall Plan. It’s not hard to understand why most Germans and Europeans in general don’t want to go to war. Germany has one of the best standards of living and a medical- and social-welfare system that would leave anyone jealous. Germany has evolved in the past 57 years into a society in which the idea of war is a foreign thought.

This is the direct result of an insightful American Army general named George C. Marshall. Marshall was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for implementing a plan that rebuilt the societies of the war-torn countries of Europe, particularly Germany, rather than punishing them for another world war. The world had realized the problems with sanctions and appeasement, and Germany was the benefactor.

Since the end of the Persian Gulf War, and in Bosnia and Kosovo, ruthless regimes have again entered into secret pacts and alliances (“axis of evil”) and laughed at the implementation of United Nations resolutions, Security Council resolutions and economic sanctions. These ruthless leaders don’t suffer. Rather, they continue to commit genocide (Slobodan Milosevic in Bosnia and Kosovo), submit their own people to the harsh realities of sanctions and continue to develop weapons of mass destruction (Saddam Hussein in Iraq) until the world intervenes.

Now is not the time for a debate on the fundamentals of proactive unilateral and reactive multilateral military approaches. It’s perhaps time to recognize an opportunity to re-establish the Marshall Plan in Iraq, as is in progress in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, even initially by forced intervention. As in our own lives, there are times when we must admit that Plan A hasn’t worked (11 years of sanctions and appeasements, i.e. “oil for food”), and Plan B must be implemented for the betterment of a people and the world.

This is perhaps where the divide between Americans and Europeans has developed. Many Europeans have asked me for my thoughts on Iraq and the war on terrorism. I respond — politics, economics, oil and military strategy aside — that most Americans find it hard to stomach that Europeans don’t want to intervene in Iraq. I explain that we have a possibility to implement a Marshall Plan in Iraq. Aid from a Marshall Plan coalition could lift a people up and provide them the means to become another example of a postwar nation that embraces peace and serves as a beacon to the rest of the Middle East.

This is really the fundamental point. Is Europe and the rest of the world ready to bite the bullet and make a commitment to helping a nation? Or should we let appeasement, sanctions and history run their course?

Capt. Shawn MonienHohenfels, Germany

Finding right job is hard work

Upon arriving in Germany with my husband, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited and nervous to start our life and my career over again. My husband and I went to the newcomers’ briefings in order to learn what we needed to do to get started. During these briefings, the wives were asked the question, “How many of you plan on having a career while you are here?” I raised my hand and awaited an answer. “It will be difficult” was all I got.

I attended a job opportunities class at Ramstein Air Base to learn about the job market. In this class, I was given a great deal of information about applying for GS and other positions. One of the things I received was a list of action verbs to use when writing my résumé. I was told to use as many of these action verbs as possible in order for the computer to consider me qualified for various positions. I find it hard to accept that a computer is deciding what I am and am not qualified for.

I was also given a Web site that contained GS job descriptions and was told to use it to help gear my résumé toward the position I wanted. But I found this difficult to do because there was more than one position in which I was interested. Ethically speaking, one’s résumé is supposed to contain one’s skills and abilities, not what others want to hear.

I did construct my résumé and entered it into the government résumé systems and turned it in for nonappropriated funds positions. I was offered two jobs that were nonappropriated fund positions. I turned both down because they wanted me to use my spousal preference and I was not willing to do that for $8 an hour when I hold a college degree. That wage won’t even pay my college loans. My spousal preference is my only trump card, so I have to use it wisely.

I took a Resumix class, which is a military résumé class, to make sure my résumé was done properly. In this class, I learned that the Resumix system is currently not functional. Therefore, I needed to do my résumé in Microsoft Word and e-mail it to the Continuation of Pay office so it could input my résumé into the system. Why was I not informed of this system problem earlier, and why it is not being fixed? To add insult to injury, I had to wait two weeks to e-mail my résumé because corrections are only accepted twice a month.

During the classes I took, I was told that getting a job has a lot to do with who one knows and that volunteering is a great way to network. Volunteering is not a substitute for a job, and it should not be used as a medium through which to get a job. I worked hard to get my college degree and would like to use it. I don’t feel that I should have to settle for a lesser-paying job that I would not be happy doing just because we are in Germany.

I am a hard-working individual who would be an asset to any position. I am flexible and willing to do different jobs, but I’m not willing to give up on having a fulfilling career. I deserve a career just as much as the person I came here with. All I want is a decent job with a decent wage.

Jodi SalmiKaiserslautern, Germany

September 28

Drugs don’t define Okinawa

I am writing to address a series of articles that appeared in the Sept. 22 issue of Pacific Stars and Stripes regarding teenage drug use on military bases in Japan and South Korea. While it is certainly true that we have had occurrences of teenage drug use on Okinawa, I want to make it clear that the military community is actively engaging the issue and that Okinawa is a wonderful place in which to live, work and raise a family.

Teenage drug use is a serious issue, and we are taking both preventive and punitive measures to eradicate it. Our community is involved in an active campaign to advance awareness and prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. The command sends representatives to Department of Defense schools to give briefs on the impact of misbehavior. Commercials concerning substance abuse regularly air on the American Forces Network radio and television stations, and posters are visible all over base. The Marine Corps Community Services has substance abuse information on its Web site and is currently creating an information video on the topic. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service also visits schools to help educate the children.

As part of its curriculum, Kubasaki High School has a mandatory academic requirement to take a health class, which includes group counseling on substance abuse issues. Counselors from Family Advocacy regularly give briefs to students and are always available to provide counseling or other assistance. We are also working to bring a permanent drug and alcohol counselor to Kubasaki High.

Parents and teachers are involved in the process and actively seek to be a part of the children’s lives through coaching sports, volunteering and other activities. We are fortunate to have a strong parent-teacher association, which lends its support as well. Our policy is to foster parental supervision whenever possible, even to the point of requiring parents to act as school bus monitors in the mornings and afternoons.

The articles portray a negative image of both life and the DOD schools on Okinawa. I want to make it clear that Okinawa is a safe environment where military families can truly enjoy themselves while serving their country.

Okinawa is one of the safest places in the world. The crime rate is lower here than in any major city in the United States. The low rate is true of virtually all types of crime, including substance abuse. I’m happy to say that the military community averages an even lower rate than the Okinawan community.

Add to this the fantastic opportunities to live in a different country with a fascinating culture, travel and see new things, and you have a great place to live.

Sure, we face certain challenges but, on the whole, the atmosphere afforded our children is safer and better than almost any public school in the United States. As a parent, I was happy to have one of my children graduate from Kubasaki High and experience life on Okinawa.

Lt. Gen. W.C. GregsonCommanding generalIII Marine Expeditionary ForceOkinawa

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