Liberty buddies are required for all junior Marines and noncommissioned officers in Okinawa who go off base as leaders tighten liberty and alcohol rules following two major crimes on the island.
From May 27 until June 28, all Okinawa-based U.S. troops faced a series of off-base restrictions as part of what military commanders called a "period of unity and mourning." The limits on off-base activities were prompted by the arrests of a Marine veteran and a sailor for serious crimes on Okinawa.
Kenneth Franklin Gadson, a Marine veteran who worked at Kadena Air Base as a civilian, is accused of murdering a 20-year-old Japanese woman. Two months before his arrest, Justin Castellanos, a sailor assigned to Camp Schwab, was arrested for allegedly raping a Japanese woman.
Liberty and alcohol rules in Japan are changed regularly. On June 24, U.S. Forces Japan issued the latest liberty policies for U.S. troops on Okinawa. Here's what Marines need to know about going off base.
Get a buddy. All Marines with a rank of sergeant or below need a liberty buddy for all off-base liberty.
In the past, Marines were required to have a liberty buddy for certain hours of the day. After two sailors were accused of raping a Japanese woman in October 2012, U.S. Forces Japan required all troops with the rank of E-5 or below to have liberty buddies between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. The policy was revised two years later to allow those troops to stay out alone until 10 p.m.
Last call. Marines need to leave off-base bars, clubs and other businesses focused on selling alcohol by midnight.
This rule is not as strict as the monthlong policy that was lifted June 28. During the "period of unity and mourning," all local clubs and bars were off limits to Marines. Those Marines who lived on base were not allowed to drink while off base. Those Marines who lived off base could drink only while in their homes.
Marines and sailors enjoy lunch after helping clean up the beach Nov. 21 aboard Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan. Marine and Navy personnel have been forbidden from spending the night in Okinawa's capital city of Naha.
Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Douglas D. Simons/Marine Corps
No staying out all night. All Marines have to be back on base or in their off-base housing or hotel rooms by 1 a.m. Curfew is in effect from 1 am until 5 a.m.
Furthermore, Marines are not allowed to take overnight liberty, special liberty or leave in areas south of Camp Kinser and Highway 38 between midnight and 5 a.m. Exceptions for Marines performing official duties are allowed.
Stricter rules allowed. The Marines and other services can issue even tougher rules on drinking and liberty if they want to.
"Component commanders retain the authority to extend this order, or implement additional restrictive liberty measures, necessary for the maintenance of good order and discipline within their commands," Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, III MEF commander, said in a June 24 announcement.
Between June 6 and July 10, the Navy banned sailors on Okinawa from drinking on base or off after Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, who was assigned to Kadena, was arrested June 5 after allegedly driving the wrong way on a freeway and smashing head-on into two vehicles.
Okinawa-specific. The rules on liberty and alcohol do not apply to Marines who are in mainland Japan or outside Okinawa on leave or liberty.
Nicholson wrote that liberty is one of the missions that Marines on Okinawa are tasked with successfully carrying out. When Marines follow the rules, it helps with the overall mission of defending Japan and U.S. interests.
"We have strategic regional responsibilities and are charged by our national leadership and the American people to be ready to fight tonight — we do this by keeping faith with the people of Okinawa and the American community in the execution of every mission," Nicholson wrote in his June 24 announcement.