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7th Fleet liberty rules tightened for sailors

Nov. 26, 2012 - 02:32PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 26, 2012 - 02:32PM  |  
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Are increased liberty restrictions in Japan the right move in light of recent misbehavior, or an overreaction by top leaders? Send us your thoughts at navylet@navytimes.com; we may use them in an upcoming edition.

SAN DIEGO Top Navy commanders ordered all personnel to remain in their bases and government quarters at night in Japan where an 11 p.m. curfew is in place and barred them from consuming alcohol after 10 p.m. following another spate of embarrassing incidents, mostly involving drunken service members.

Vice Adm. Scott Swift, the 7th Fleet commander, and Rear Adm. Dan Cloyd, who commands Naval Forces Japan, both based in Yokosuka, imposed the restrictions over the weekend in an all-hands message that said commanders will be held accountable if the misbehavior continues.

Under the rules, sailors on leave or traveling "must be in a hotel that is pre-approved by their chain of command," they wrote.

The rules are even stricter for any sailor with a liberty infraction in the past year: Those sailors now have no liberty at all and will be restricted to their ship or base when they aren't working.

"Every liberty incident since the curfew went into effect has involved misuse of alcohol and most have included sailors with a past pattern of known alcohol misuse treated or not," Swift and Cloyd wrote in the message, the second such joint message on liberty restrictions in a month.

The liberty restrictions they ordered apply to any personnel stationed, deployed or traveling through Japan with units and commanders under 7th Fleet or Naval Forces Japan. That includes transiting ships, submarines and squadrons. It's unclear whether other services have imposed similar rules, although earlier restrictions ordered by U.S. Forces Japan officials in Tokyo apply to all service members in the country.

The message orders every unit commander to scrub the liberty given to their "at-risk" sailors and review the liberty status of the rest of their personnel, adjusting those "as needed" by today. These issues likely will be addressed during a "personal behavior summit" scheduled for Saturday, according to the message.

"My goal is to keep the measures ... in place for as short a time as possible and to minimize the impact on outstanding sailors," Swift and Cloyd wrote.

Command leaders will be held accountable for any liberty incident that spurs scrutiny from the top, they warned.

"If an incident does occur that crosses the threshold of discrediting the U.S., I want to immediately determine where leadership or policy failed and promptly correct the problem," they wrote, noting incidents involving alcohol misuse, substance abuse and assault. "The immediate chain of command of the offending sailor (normally a division or equivalent) will be placed in a duty status and recalled to the unit to review the incident."

A second incident by the same unit will result in a broader recall say, for the sailor's department and a third incident will mean the entire command gets recalled.

"This is a leadership challenge," Swift and Cloyd wrote. "We cannot manage our way out of it."

They want to see more intrusive, deck-plate leadership and are open to innovative solutions, such as mandatory morning command physical training or approval of buddy assignments, that could reduce liberty incidents.

The latest restrictions were prompted by six incidents involving American troops reported since U.S. Forces Japan imposed strict 11 p.m. curfews for all service members in early November. That Japan-wide curfew came after http://www.militarytimes.com/news/2012/11/ap-two-sailors-charged-with-rape-in-okinawa-110612/">two sailors were arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Okinawa.

The message didn't include details of the half-dozen misconduct issues, but recent cases making headlines include:

A sailor assigned to the Japan-based carrier George Washington was arrested by local police in the early morning of Nov. 23 after allegedly stripping naked and urinating in a Yokohama cafe. He was identified as Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Oscar H. Wiygul III, 23, the http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201211230068">Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Friday.

Marine Pfc. Gregory Carson II, 20, was arrested in Okinawa on Thursday for trespassing on a building, according to the http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201211230068">Asahi Shimbun.

A Marine lieutenant was arrested Nov. 17 for allegedly trespassing in a home in Okinawa. Local police said 1st Lt. Tomas Chanquet, 24, reportedly admitted he got drunk and went into the home in Naha, according to The Associated Press.

Earlier this month, according to several news accounts, an airman assigned at Kadena Air Force Base http://www.stripes.com/news/military-to-add-naha-to-courtesy-patrol-list-on-okinawa-1.197917/">reportedly broke into a home.

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