CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- The Commander, United States Forces, Japan has disseminated a new Japan-wide liberty policy that will take effect on Dec. 9. The new policy applies to all U.S. service members that are stationed in or temporarily visit Japan and will replace the previous 29 May 2013 USFJ liberty policy. And there are some additional management tools that specifically apply to Marines based in Japan, according to Marine Corps officials.
The Marine Corps also updated their service-specific liberty policy, which Marines and those serving under Marine commands within Japan, must comply with, according to the III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific Liberty Regulations in Japan, published on Nov. 26, 2014.
“According to the USFJ policy, authorized commanders may add additional measures as deemed appropriate,” said Col. Eric M. Mellinger, chief of staff, III MEF. “For Marines this means that we will continue to use the liberty card system, which continues to serve us well to manage off-duty conduct and reward good behavior.”
The liberty card system is a color-coded system using red or gold cards that all Marines must have in their possession in order to be granted off-installation liberty. The color of the card determines the level of liberty privileges that the Marine is granted, and is based on rank and merit.
The following three points sums up the additional Marine Corps stipulations under the revised III MEF/MCIPAC liberty policy.
First, the Marine Corps' liberty buddy policy applies to all red card holders regardless of rank, as well as all E-5s and below who are in Japan for less than 150 days.
Second, a liberty buddy is required for all liberty hours if a liberty buddy is needed (see accompanying chart).
Finally, the curfew hours of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. applies to all red card holders regardless of rank, and all E-5s and below.
Aside from these points, Marines in Japan are under the same policies that the new USFJ policy stipulates, according to Col. Peter S. Rubin, staff judge advocate, MCIPAC.
The additional Marine specific policies are in place to comply with the Marine Corps’ liberty card program, according to officials.
“III MEF/MCIPAC liberty buddy rules will apply to all red card holders and all E-5 and below not in Japan on PCS/UDP orders,” said Mellinger. “However, E-5s and below will not need a liberty buddy if they have a gold card and are permanently assigned to Japan PCS/UDP. These E-5 and below will still have a curfew of 0100-0500. When a liberty buddy is required, that buddy requirement will be for all off-base liberty.”
The updates to the USFJ policy have been made through close coordination with Japanese authorities.
“Leadership has been working with the Government of Japan and local authorities throughout this process. Local officials will continue to be kept informed of any changes to liberty policy,” said Mellinger.
The USFJ liberty policy is applicable to all military personnel located and operating in Japan who are subject to Commander, United States Pacific Command authority. This authority also includes personnel in a temporary duty, temporary additional duty, deployed, leave, or pass status within the country of Japan, according to the policy. The policy will also apply to reserve personnel (when serving in a reserve capacity) and National Guard personnel (when in a Title 10 status).
The revised liberty policy fosters trust, understanding, and aims to maintain good relationships while providing a good quality of life for U.S. service members, according to USFJ officials.
“The overwhelming majority of our service members, civilians and family members are outstanding contributing members of our communities, and those few who misbehave are dealt with appropriately according to the rule of law,” said Michael E. Kampsen, chief of staff, MCIPAC-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “It is important to point out that the overwhelming majority of our Marines are exceptional, law-abiding, honorable and respectful community members."
The revised policy includes the following six changes for all U.S. service members in Japan, according to USFJ officials.
First, it removes the Okinawa-specific provisions, thereby equalizing the policy across Japan. One of the Okinawa-specific provisions being removed is the limitation of two alcoholic beverages allowed to be consumed off-installation with dinner between the hours of 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Second, it changes the curfew period for E-5 and below to 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Third, it reduces the grade requirement of an authorized commander to O-4 and higher and grants them the authority to both implement and rescind unit denial of liberty. In addition to the authority to grant individual liberty, the O-4 commanders can also grant or deny event-by-event exceptions of limited duration to curfew and liberty buddy requirements. Grade-based blanket exceptions are not authorized, according to the policy.
Fourth, it changes the applicability of the liberty buddy provisions to all military personnel in the grades of E-5 and below who are in a TDY/TAD, leave, or pass status in Japan, or who are deployed to Japan (except those deployed on orders to Japan for 150 days or more as part of a unit deployment program). It is not applicable to military personnel permanently assigned on permanent change of station (PCS) orders in Japan.
Fifth, it changes the liberty buddy period, for all military personnel in the grades of E-5 and below on TDY, TAD, leave or pass status, to the hours of 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. if off-installation.
And finally, sixth, for all military personnel, regardless of rank, off-installation public consumption of alcohol will only be prohibited between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. daily.
Furthermore, annual sexual assault prevention and response training and Japan Indoctrination Training or Okinawa Cultural Awareness Training, upon arrival in Japan, continues to be a requirement. Commanders will also continue to ensure their service members are educated on responsible drinking practices in accordance with the timelines set forth in COMUSJAPAN memorandum, “Responsible Drinking Training,” dated 31 July 2014.
U.S. military authorities said they will continue to monitor and adjust liberty policies as needed to ensure the best decisions are made by individuals.
"We value our relations with the local communities,” said Kampsen. “We will continue to do our utmost to keep those relationships strong."