Sailors in Japan barred from drinking alcohol, leaving base

Sailors in Japan barred from drinking alcohol, leaving base

By:  Erik Slavin

Stars and Stripes:  June 5, 2016

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sailors in Japan are barred until further notice from non-essential, off-base activities and banned from drinking alcohol, Navy officials announced Monday following a recent spate of high-profile arrests of servicemembers and civilians.

The order covers all ranks and bans both on- and off-base alcohol consumption, according to a joint announcement from 7th Fleet and Commander Naval Forces Japan.

“These measures are not taken lightly,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Carter, CNFJ. “For decades, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the people of Japan. It is imperative that each sailor understand how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole.”

Sailors living off-base can commute to work and engage in “essential activities,” such as grocery shopping, gym use, child care and gasoline pickup, according to a Navy statement.

Sailors must clear other off-base activities through their chain of command, officials said Monday.

The order is the most wide-ranging restriction in several years for sailors in Japan, where the Navy has periodically ordered alcohol bans and curfews for all ranks, but particularly for younger, enlisted sailors.

Military officials said privately Monday that misconduct is taking up considerable time among senior leaders, stealing focus from the region’s myriad security challenges.

The restrictions covering off-base liberty will remain active until unit commanders, executive officers and enlisted leaders conduct face-to-face training with all personnel.

The alcohol ban will remain until the Navy is “comfortable that all personnel understand the impact” of irresponsible behavior “on the U.S.-Japan alliance and the United States’ ability to provide security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” according to a Navy statement.

The Navy Exchange at Yokosuka has stopped selling alcoholic beverages in support of the order, according to signs posted at base stores. The effects of the curfew also were evident Monday night in the Honch, a drinking district right outside the base that is popular with Navy personnel. Bars and restaurants normally filled with American customers were mostly deserted, aside from small groups of civilians affiliated with the base.

The order includes sailors stationed in Japan and those arriving on temporary duty.

“The overwhelming majority of our sailors are doing an outstanding job every single day,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, 7th Fleet commander, according to a statement released Monday. “But that same majority — at every pay grade — is also responsible for providing leadership on all levels.

“We will not condone misconduct that impacts our ability to conduct our mission or which jeopardizes our critical alliance with Japan.”

The order does not apply to civilians, contractors, family members and personnel from other services stationed at Navy bases; however, Navy officials have requested that they take the order into account.

“The behavior of all Americans in under the microscope right now,” CNFJ spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders said.

Sailors already receive information on proper conduct at orientation briefings when they first arrive in Japan. The additional training will reinforce that, but will include a frank assessment of conduct over the past month and how it is affects U.S. security plans in the region, Navy officials said.

The military on Okinawa declared a period of mourning last month after police there found the body of Rina Shimabukuro, 20, in a forest.

Kenneth Franklin Gadson, a civilian base contractor and former U.S. Marine who goes by his wife’s last name of Shinzato, is suspected by police of dumping the body and is soon expected to face other formal charges.

The incident increased longstanding protests over the U.S. military’s presence in Okinawa, where about half of all servicemembers in Japan are based.

Last month, President Barack Obama set aside economic issues on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan to discuss Shinzato’s arrest and express his regret to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who called on the U.S. to do more to prevent such incidents.

On Saturday night, Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, 21, was arrested after driving the wrong way down an Okinawa highway and crashing into two other vehicles, according to police.

A Breathalyzer test revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.18, six times the legal limit in Japan, despite a week-old ban on off-base drinking, police said.

On Monday, Okinawa police recommended a charge of “dangerous driving resulting in injuries” to prosecutors. If charged, Mejia would face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison under Japanese law.

The new restrictions on sailors are not a response to any one particular incident, but to a negative trend of behavior in the force, officials said Monday.

Besides the incident involving Mejia, sailors reported “belligerent behavior” off-base involving other sailors under the influence of alcohol in Yokosuka during the past weekend, Navy officials added.


Commentary by Jim Barton Capt, USN (Ret)

I think in general this is symptomatic of a trend which has been going on in the US Navy for the last three decades.
In the 1980s, there was a zero tolerance policy made by the 6th Fleet Commander in the Mediterranean based on for increasing reportable incidents ashore by sailors. Many of these involved alcohol. The “liberty risk” policy was put in place where sailors could be kept aboard ships if commanding officers viewed them to be potentially risky. Liberty was said to be a privilege and not a right. That policy soon became the norm everywhere.
But the simultaneous integration of changes into the Navy of certain societal “norms” tended to exacerbate problems ashore.
Alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs were put in place and eventually when these did not work, the Navy turned to increasingly harsh restrictions overseas and at home as the Navy’s reach to the present where it extends now far past the quarterdeck where breath analyzers are used to how sailors should behave at home.
In Japan, the status of sailors was covered by the Status of Forces Agreement which has come into sharp focus since Japanese dissatisfaction with the 1995 USG treatment of an alleged rape perpetrator. In the most recent example, the President allowed himself to be lectured to publicly by the Japanese minister for another alleged case.
In an attempt to mollify the Japanese not only have overly restrictive policies such as these in the article been put in place but the U.S. has shown a willingness to allow sailors to be prosecuted under less than the most severe of crimes under Japanese law. Both approaches are wrong and will not work.
In my opinion, it is a matter of education and leadership. As long as we have the type of politically correct leadership we saw in the 1980s and beyond in the Mediterranean and today in the Far East and elsewhere, these problems will continue to occur by the few.
In reality, these incidents while disagreeable, are rare and do not reflect the actions of the majority. Punishment and restrictions toward all just harbors resentment and reduces spirit de corps and morale. It is a pitiful example of the navy leadership and civilian meddling. More of our leadership should take a stand and not allow itself to be driven by politically directed edicts from Washington.
What is happening is that we are attempting to curtail access and put in place edicts which in essence are unenforceable and applying standards which are completely unenforceable back home in the United States among civilians.
I think it bears testimony to how poorly the US Navy is led these days. these pitiful attempts are essentially a return to the actions of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. It did not work then and it does not work now.


The author is a retired career US Navy Surface Warfare Officer whose assignments at sea include duty in all Line Departments in the Destroyer and Auxiliary Forces up to and including command of a Frigate. Ashore he served in key national policy positions on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations.


The Night I Nearly Got My Clock Cleaned

The Night I Nearly Got My Clock Cleaned

By:  Pat Dingle

I’ll bet most felt like I did that first year in patrol, working with seasoned officers who always seemed to know just what to say or do with those we encountered in the streets and homes of North Las Vegas during the sixties and seventies. For me, a young officer of 21 years of age at that time, nothing had a more confidence building effect like working with guys the first time out like Tom Fay, Dick Warrilow, Ray McGuffee and the cop’s cop, Bob Smith. With partners or back-up like these men, there was nothing we couldn’t do or accomplish. I’ll give you an example of that “can do” confidence in this story and you’ll see just how naive young coppers can be.

During the summer months on swing shift, we’d often have one two man car to take the hot calls like bar fights, burglaries in progress, robberies, or any felony in progress etc. on Friday and Saturday nights. We would also do normal patrol duties but we wouldn’t be dispatched to a report taking call. We were the heavies at those times and couldn’t be bothered by piddling police work. It felt pretty good.

It was on such a night that I was partnered up with Bob Smith. We hit the streets after the 4 PM briefing and toured the city, waiting for “the call” or to come across a JDLR situation ( just don’t look right ). As I recall it was around 8 PM or so when Ray McGuffee radioed he was making a DUI stop at the Shell gas station, Las Vegas blvd. North & Civic Center. Shortly Ray called for a tow truck and a cab. Bob and I looked at each other, knowing that was very unusual, Ray never cut anyone slack when it came to DUI. We were already heading up the Blvd so we decided to drive by and see who Ray had stopped, this had to be good for him to call for a cab. As we drove pass, we saw Ray standing in the parking lot of the gas station with a very big black man, about fifty feet away from a truck and Ray’s patrol car. That was enough for us to make a U-turn and go back up Ray.

Parking behind Ray’s unit in the street, we walked up to them as Ray was saying to the man, “Sir, I’ve called a cab for you, you can’t drive, wait a minute and your ride will be here”. Sir? ride? what’s going on? The big black man was older than us, perhaps in his late forties or early fifties and in really good shape. I looked at his hands hanging at his side, I’ve never seen hands that wide before and his knuckles were the size of walnuts. He was swaying slightly back and forth and didn’t seem the least bit concerned that three cops were standing between him and his truck. All he kept saying was “I wants my truck” and then take a step towards it. That’s when Bob Smith thought enough of this BS and told the guy ” You heard what the officer said. If you go for your truck again, you’re going to jail”. The man thought a minute then said “I wants my truck” and took a step forward. Bob pushed him back by one hand on his chest, I took hold of the sap in my back pocket, ready to go, thinking he’s really big but what the hell, there’s three of us, and Ray pleaded “Sir, your cab will be right here, don’t”. It was a tense moment, here was a very big man, not taller than us (me) but much wider, heavier and he looked stronger than any one of us. His arms looked like tree trunks ( ironwood trees ) But, so what? there were three of us and only one of him. It’s now up to him, his call. He said “I wants my truck” and took a step towards it. Bob said you’re under arrest and the all out fray…….didn’t happen. At the words “you’re under arrest”, the man just stopped and dropped his hands to his side.

Just then, Bob and I heard the dispatcher calling us with a report of a bar fight at Al’s Liquors so we hurried to cuff this guy, grabbing his arms, and get on our way, only it couldn’t be done. The man was so big, his arms wouldn’t bend back far enough and he was too wide to get a pair of handcuffs on his wrists. We had to use my cuffs and Ray’s, hooked together, in order to cuff this guy, then try to stuff him in the backseat of Ray’s unit. It was finally done with much effort huffing and puffing. We rushed off to the fun of a bar fight at Al’s Liquors which of course was over by the time we got there and none of the multitude of intoxicated hard-hats seen nothing and the bartender just rolled his eyes at us “never when you need them” cops and continued to wipe the bar counter, wondering why the fuck he was working in a joint like this.

Bob and I resumed patrol, wondering aloud if we’re going to have any excitement tonight. After a while, we started talking about Ray and the weird stop he made, why did he call a cab? why didn’t he just bust the guy and be done with it? We couldn’t figure out this puzzle so we decided to stop by the station and ask Ray, he would still be there writing his report. As we walked in the squad room, Ray was sitting there at the long table writing. He looked up at us and yelled “What are you guys trying to do? get us killed? Bob and I looked at each other, now more baffled than ever, saying what the hell are you talking about? Ray, pissed off big time, said “do you know who that was?” we shrugged our shoulders, no. Ray, now more pissed and standing, shouts “That’s SONNY LISTON”…. no shit?, says we. Then we rushed to the drunk tank, opened the small metal window and there he was, Sonny Liston, passed out on the padded floor, fully dressed, including his lace up boots. Seems nobody wanted to enforce the jail rules about no street clothes in the drunk tank this time.

Soon everyone on the shift, all five or six of us, was in the station taking a look through the small door of the drunk tank at Sonny Liston, this was cool. We all knew about the time in Denver a few years prior when Liston beat up a bunch of cops, maybe ten of them, breaking one’s leg, and here he was, the Heavy Weight Champion of the World ( former, but we played that part down that night ) in the North Town jail, arrested by three unscathed North Town cops. That’s right, we bad, we tough,….. we lucky, he would have cleaned our clock if he wanted to or had just reacted to his life of fighting in the ring and streets. We kept going back and taking another look, just to made sure he was out cold. We collectively, Sgt. too, decided that it would be best if we just let the Heavy Weight Champ of The Entire World sleep it off and then the day shift could try to take his boots away if they wanted to. We’ll take our win and not push it. This was neat stuff, don’t fuck it up now.

Bob and I went back out on patrol that night, to crunch crime, with me thinking we coulda taken Sonny Liston and Bob Smith looking at me like a father looks at a dumb son you’re stuck with, both of us wondering if we’re going to have any excitement during the rest of the shift. McGuffee held a grudge until he was cleared for code 7. The other officers arrested several more drunks that night, who were placed in felony cells instead of the drunk tank. We all agreed that was probably a smart move. We all took a last look at Sonny Liston at the end of the shift, still sleeping on the floor of the drunk tank, as did all the cops coming on the graveyard shift. I might  have told a few fellow rookies on grave some trash talk about how I took Sonny down, but I don’t really remember now. I never saw Sonny Liston again but I remember he told the press during a court appearance a few months later, that the night in question was the best he had ever been treated anywhere by the police and he thanked us publicly for the kindly, gentle way in which we did our sworn duty. Yes Sir, we were gentlemen to the core on that occasion, Mr. Liston said so. Sonny died a few years later of a heroin overdose. I know where he was copping the dope and from whom, in the 1300 block of west Helen, over on the west-side, but that’s a North Town Police story for another time.