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U.S. troops in Okinawa banned from drinking, restricted to base after fatal crash

65 Comments
By Ken Moritsugu

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65 Comments
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no alcohol for any military personnel on or off base? dang

0 ( +11 / -11 )

@Toshiko.

Why GIs in Okinawa cause trouble? Do military assign only good one to mainland and bad ones to Okinawa?

I can see how you would see that wayToshiko. But the fact is the Okinawa bases have more drinking establishments in close proximity to the gates or closer to base and more taxis. While mainland U.S. bases do not have so many drinking places around the gates. MCCS Iwakuni excluded. Plus Okinawa has a larger population of U.S. service personnel and GOV. staff and contractors more than mainland Japan U.S. bases have. Mainland Japan U.S. bases have the same problems with alcohol related incidents but I think are not as publicized as in Okinawa. The comment by Droll Quarry is spot on too. When these Marines get paid and you find yourself in a Mini mart or 7 day in line waiting to get to the register to pay for your gas. The things you will find in there basket. Oh my. Chef Boyarde, Beer/wine, Fireball whiskey/Jagermeister, whey protein, beef jerky, cigarettes or snuff.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sweeping knee jerk reaction without root cause analysis. How about putting in some efforts to make better checks on the rules already laid out.

-2 ( +13 / -15 )

Drink, run a red light, and kill someone, dang. I wonder if they will give jurisdiction to the military.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

A countrywide drinking ban seems excessive and promotes collective punishment, however drink driving resulting in death is tantamount to murder so this guy has got to go down

12 ( +18 / -6 )

The U.S. military said "alcohol may have been a factor" in the crash. Before he was arrested, the Marine admitted that he had been drinking beer inside a U.S. base, according to police.

MAY have been a factor? He'd been drinking beer, he admitted it. Drink drivers cause accidents, that's a well known fact... I'm sorry, but I have no sympathy for drivers who drink.

In my country the law is very strict on drink driving:

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

6 months’ imprisonment

an unlimited fine

a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

7 ( +12 / -5 )

@MJ that was going to be my question, who's jurisdiction would it come under? the US or Japan? (if) its the marines fault, he should go to jail either in the US or Japan, also will he be booted out of the military for bad conduct? and then arrested in civi street? there has been a lot of comments on these little K vans like that they are very poorly made, not unto any rated safety standards, just looking at the mini van it didn't come off to well, either way this marines future is not very bright, it looks like its heading down skid row.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@Thunderbird - punishment in the U.S. for driving under the influence may vary by state but it is very severe. Loss of license is typically for a long duration and often requires community service and substance abuse education before your license can be re-instated. The fines are pretty steep. If someone is injured or as in this case killed it is a really bad deal.

The military will investigate and determine cause and if they do find alcohol was a contributing factor in any way whatsoever this guy is screwed (He is screwed already anyway as he was over the limit). They are properly stating they want to conduct an investigation before immediately determining the root cause of the accident, that is all. They will check vehicle maintenance records, check the accident investigation performed by the Japanese police, rule out brake failure, etc. I think this is the right thing to do as they will follow due process.

@Brian - He will be more than booted out of the military for bad conduct, regardless if alcohol is the actual root cause of the accident. To put it bluntly, he is hosed.

Putting everyone on Tier 3 Liberty status is a radical move and shows the U.S. military is taking this seriously. This may seem radical to some but I think this move is warranted in this case.

Bad deal and I would not want to be that young marine at this time.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I feel sorry for the more than 99% of the US military who would never and have never engaged in such behaviour, but it's gotta be done. They need to understand that with the current relations the way they are in Okinawa, and with the old guys WAITING and begging for this to happen so they can justify their anti-US base (but keep the handouts) stance, it's got to be a 100% effort to avoid such incidents. This has implications for the whole military, and so now the whole US military must suffer for the actions of this individual.

-9 ( +9 / -18 )

i know this is customary to do after any incident involving the US military, but does it actually solve the problem or is it even what locals want to happen? because i'm assuming it's locals who own the bars so they would be hurt most by the ban, not any military personel.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

while scuba diving in okinwa, all the military on the dive boat wanted to go as deep as possible. I asked why and they told me at about 35meters they get narked, an intense natural high. they said they can get off their faces and pass drug/alcohol tests on base. Sounds better than a hangover.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

@nakanoguy01 In general it is a politically motivated action to show that "something" is being done coupled with mandatory classes for military and DoD civilian personnel about proper alcohol use etc. A curtailment of all off base activity and reflection on being good ambassadors to the troops, families etc. In the end though people make mistakes and bad decisions with or without rules and things will occur despite the best efforts to prevent them. There is always someone somewhere who thinks the rules don't apply to them and will make the bad choice. That goes for everyone not just the military.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

FINALLY! Letting people in possesion of arms drink alcohol? What could ever go wrong?!

Obviously the authorities have undestood that keeping the decent image for U.S. soldiers on Japanese soil is an impossible task for the soldiers themselves. So educated people decided to put up new rules, at last.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

Gotta feel sorry for the responsible drinkers who have all been disadvantaged by this one reckless idiot.

By the way, that photo gives a good indication of how K-cars fold up like an aluminium can in a crash.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

This kind of accident could be avoided if there were more roundabouts. Roundabouts are much safer because they force drivers to slow down and if there is a crash, the impact is MUCH lighter. A vehicle travelling at 40 kph colliding with a vehicle doing the same speed coming the other way creates the same impact as a car slamming into a brick wall at 80 kph.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

Dissilusioned,

"By the way, that photo gives a good indication of how K-cars fold up like an aluminium can in a crash."

Well, K-cars certainly lose when they are hit by a military truck that's designed to operate in combat conditions running a red light at speed. In any case, it's ironic that these little white trucks are all many Okinawans can afford to run. And why is this? US bases have been holding down the Okinawan economy since the 70's.

-9 ( +4 / -13 )

A drunkard who is used to drive in the keep right dictum now speeding in the left - lane always spells trouble.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Okinawans never get drunk and cause fatal accidents? People are people, and some will always make bad judgement errors no matter what nationality they are or where they happen to be. It's very unfortunate, but please don't base your opinions on the actions of the very few.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Another token ban by the military. As same ol',same ol as the gun debates after mass killings.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Military personnel stationed in a host nation are guests in that nation. Young service men and women need to be guided on basic principles of behaviour -- especially in Japan. That is incumbent upon the Officer corps, in loco parentis.

I suggest that every service man returning to any military base in Japan should be required to pass through a breathalyser test at the gate. There will still be abuses, but if it helps avoid this kind a tragedy, that would be better for all.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Well IAW SOFA the Japan has jurisdiction based upon the changes in 2015. However, the comment "plus Okinawa has a larger population of U.S. service personnel and GOV. staff and contractors more than mainland Japan U.S. bases have" has nothing to do with 1 individual as it could have very well have happened on mainland. Mainland has a much higher risk because there are a lot more people, so more careful consideration is provided when driving off bases. To the person who posted Breathalyzer testing at the gates as JASDF does is one method, but causes massive traffic jams to those who work hard and do not break the laws, so why punish them. To the post regarding bars outside the bases mainly in Okinawa is true for all bases, so next time try getting out more and you will see that your quite wrong. However one team one fight is definitely the mentality and support of the war on alcohol.  Frankly seems the US is losing this fight.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I think other soldiers will restrain from drinking while on duty for a while.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Fell bad that someone had to die and many other marines have to suffer and get a bad rep because of one fool.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

This all begs the question of why there are so many US military in Okinawa? WWII ended 70+ years ago. Many of the US military don't want to be here and many Okinawans don't want the US military here either. They don't hate Americans, but they would like their land back - especially since tourism is a huge source of revenue.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Okinawans may get drunk but they get drunk in Okinawa, not in USA..

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

It is somewhat irrational, when a horrifying incident like this occurs, to immediately ben drinking for all military personnel. It wasn't the drinking that was the dangerous half of the equation; it was the driving. The most inebriated drunkard will have a hard time accidentally killing someone before falling down drunk, whereas any perfectly sober person can drive recklessly and kill an innocent person.

Innatentive drivers kill innocent people all the time. If some fool in the military who was driving while texting hit a pedestrian, would we ban all military personnel from using cell phones? No, we would recognize that it is the automobile that kills people and the automobile that must be restricted. An automobile is like a weapon; it is useful but it can also kill if you're not careful, and you should be giving 100% concentration when operating one.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's either go cold turkey or have the vehicles replaced with horse and cart.

Addiction is a tough illness to fight. I'm asuming these soldiers are tough enough to get clean?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

re: This all begs the question of why there are so many US military in Okinawa? WWII ended 70+ years ago. Many of the US military don't want to be here and many Okinawans don't want the US military here either. They don't hate Americans, but they would like their land back - especially since tourism is a huge source of revenue.

To answer your question refer to China and NK your neighbors unless you prefer to ruled and a bullet to the back of your head or out to work in some mine as a slave and no food. Sure keep telling yourself why the US is here as I'm sure by your post your a supporter of China and NK yet try to sound empathetic towards Americans. yea right. Which Okinawan's are you referring to? The Korean and Chinese agitators who have manipulated the system to stay in the country or those who are from mainland and do not care of the lands but are selfishly in it for themselves and profit from the sweat of others. What you do not realize is that stability is the stature of the so called tourism you speak about that again does not support the entire populations with stable job income but rather supports the pockets of the 1%..landowners...

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Consuming Alcohol doesn't lend itself towards being in a state of readiness... far from it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Almost every US soldier I've met is an alcoholic. There's a lot of boredom, booze is super-cheap and the drinking culture is pervasive and lauded as near-heroic. I'll bet there's a moonshine still cooking potatoes already.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

@Goodlucktoyou, I wouldn't recommend trying to dive "deep" in order to become "Narked" - it's not actually as good as a couple of beers, and you're more likely to suffer Decompression sickness which is far from pleasant, if not fatal.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

unless you prefer to ruled and a bullet to the back of your head

What is it with posters inventing violent, murderous scenarios for those they disagree with? Seriously?

The occupiers and supporters of colonialism will continue to tell the people of the land that it's for their own good. It's classic tactics.

But, you read your histories and you wise up. Eventually, the occupiers will have to pack their bags and leave. Through peaceful means.

Oh and to clarify; by occupiers I mean military presence. Ordinary Americans who are here because they love Japan are always welcomed. They aren't the occupiers.

I do worry about the reaction to having their stimulant/drug of choice taken away. That will create a backlash. It has to happen, though. As a short term measure/punishment.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Unfortunately Americans are not welcome in Okinawa. It is the time the proud Americans withdraw from the place you are not welcome.

-11 ( +2 / -13 )

@Schopenhauer;

Military. Not Americans.

Ordinary decent Americans are welcomed the world over. There's no reason why it should be any different here.

The military on the other hand...

6 ( +11 / -5 )

capital punishment

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Bertie Wooster

If you wonder why the US Military is here, a good history brush up may be the remedy.

A WWI ally became a WWII enemy of the US that resulted in this situation.

But at this point in time, being Japanese I appreciate the US bases being in Japan as it is a big deterrent against China who seems to be out for revenge. I would be very nervous if the US packed up and left as they keep people less trigger happy.

The US being in Japan for the last several decades also is probably the reason why there’s all of us here on JapanToday talking. There wouldn’t be any foreigners teaching English had things turned out differently.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Agree with all of Toasted Heretic’s posts

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Of course they do not report all incidents that occur between Japanese residents and military members. I am a prime example of that fact. I was run over by a drunk Japanese man year's ago while on my motorcycle returning to base. I currently am receiving benefits for the incident for the rest of my life. He was drunk and fled the scene of the accident and then turned himself in the next day. I forgave him, but at this point it is a part of my life forever and causes me pain daily. It ended my military career so to speak and forced me to find a new career path because of it.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

@Ty Whalin

That's sad news and of course, drunken behaviour (especially when it causes harm like your case) should always be frowned on.

There's no excuse for drinking and driving. Absolutely none. No matter who is in charge of the vehicle.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

...an alcohol level that was three times the legal limit

What's the legal limit? I've always thought it was zero.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Once again. That's normal. Alcohol prohibition was ordered years ago for all US military personnel in Okinawa. As always the US marine will be sent back home and soon a new drunk or sober US soldier will commit another crime with impunity.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Accident occurred in DOJ’s. Jurisdiction, SOPA laws govern and the Japaneese Courts will try and apply the law. Incidents involving death normally call for a 20year or more sentence of which, one half will be served in a Japanese penal institution and one half in a U.S. Military penal institution. The service members “family” can also be held finically liable for their son’s causing the death of the Japanese citizen.

The military is renoun for punishing all for the mistakes of one pending inservice review, it is what it is!!!

Bottom line, anyone who operates any vehicle after drinking alcohol and has an accident involving death is guilty of “voluntary vehicular homicide/ manslaughter”

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I disagree with punishing the 99.99 percent of the military for the actions of the .01 percent. This is a predictable reaction from the military command. The .01 percent will still be able to get their alcohol, off base. What is needed is better controls over the use of military vehicles.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Toasted Heretic: "But, you read your histories and you wise up. Eventually, the occupiers will have to pack their bags and leave. Through peaceful means."

You seem to be confused again about the meaning of "occupy". Okinawa was returned to Japan in the '70s. It is no longer a colony of the US. Only people who hate the US military irrationally and TRULY don't know history think the US is an "occupational" force. Japan wants and needs them here. Just ask Abe and the central government. Oh, and if you think Okinawans don't. Ask them what they'll do when the money for hosting the bases is IMMEDIATELY cut off if the US leaves. They've already been asked, actually, and have begged for the handouts to be extended so that they can build theme parks (suddenly don't care about the environment) or something to promote tourism. Oh, and those are only the few who want them out -- not the MANY who want them to stay and who depend on them for their bread and butter.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@smithinjapan

All the talk of China, economic repercussions, how the people really want the occupiers to stay... it's been done before to prevent the split between a country and its colonists.

Japan isn't going to be invaded by China. It doesn't have to chose which country should be its overseer. The economy in Okinawa has a lot to offer in tourism - it's not going to fail.

I agree with you on a lot of subjects but not this one.

Eventually, the US military is going to go. And it won't be the end of Okinawa, or Japan.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

This alcohol ban may work. Last time ban was enforced, quiet for a little while.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Abe and LDP are trying to change Constitution again. This might work this time. When SOFA Is scrapped, Abe will. be force to militarized Japan and gradual eviction of American forces. Militarization of Japan is not desirable but SOFA was between Eisenhower and his maternal grandpa.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Military personnel, especially foreign ones, should be held at a higher standard and can't be compared to locals who get drunk and cause accidents.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

An open letter to the US military: how many more Okinawans must lose their lives to your undisciplined troglodytes??

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I am very glad the military is taking this seriously and taking responsibility. It is a critical time for the US Military to be in Japan to help stand up to and stop the aggression of China as it tries to take over the Orient. I am hopeful this will help calm negative feelings because we need Japan and the US to work together now in a very important time.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

American military force is taking responsibilities

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As much as I hated mass punishment for someone else's mistake while I was in the Army, sometimes it's what is necessary to get people to watch out for their fellow service member's actions. They'll think twice before just saying 'see you later' to their drunk buddy instead of seeing that he gets home safely, because they won't want to risk losing their priviledges again. Especially in a place where we have bad enough of an image issue.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well, K-cars certainly lose when they are hit by a military truck that's designed to operate in combat conditions running a red light at speed. In any case, it's ironic that these little white trucks are all many Okinawans can afford to run. And why is this? US bases have been holding down the Okinawan economy since the 70's.

Here you go again, shooting off half-cocked. As noted in numerous other places, the only thing military about the truck was the driver and the folks who owned it.

That truck he was driving is not going into combat, it is a civilian use vehicle. And before you start making condescending comments about those "little white trucks" it's nothing to do with economics. I have numerous friends, young and old, who own them, they are handy and convenient for transporting all sorts of things.

And for one example, one of the guys drives a $100,000.00 Lexus to work Monday through Friday. So get off with the condescending and arrogant attitude towards Okinawan's.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Accident occurred in DOJ’s. Jurisdiction, SOPA laws govern and the Japaneese Courts will try and apply the law. Incidents involving death normally call for a 20year or more sentence of which, one half will be served in a Japanese penal institution and one half in a U.S. Military penal institution. The service members “family” can also be held finically liable for their son’s causing the death of the Japanese citizen.

DOJ? What's that supposed to mean? The Government of Japan has the first right of prosecution in this case as it always has when it occurs off base. The Japanese prosecutors most often will leave the decision to prosecute with the military when it is a SOFA on SOFA crime, however when it involves a Japanese citizen they will prosecute. He will be given legal representation according to the SOFA, which is huge, as he will have lawyers present when questioned, along with translators as well.

Yes the Japanese court will put this guy on trial, and when he is convicted he will serve the entire sentence in a Japanese prison, unless he is paroled early. He will not serve any time in an American prison for the drunk-driving charge as he would be facing double-jeopardy if tried for the same offense.

If he faces any time in an Military prison would be for desertion, but the military typically speaking, will dishonorably discharge the military member after he is returned to their control after serving their time here in Japan.

Also, with the recent change in Japanese law, the most he should be facing for drunk driving resulting in death, is 15 years.

His family is not Japanese, and they are not going to be held financially responsible either. They may feel a moral responsibility, but they will not have a legal one!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yabaru, that you for your remarks. If I am not mistaken the US military will pay compensation to the Okinawan family? This young man did a very stupid thing by driving drunk and will pay for it for the rest of his life. This should serve as a warning to all who drink and drive of the dangers. I have changed my mind the Japanese Defense Force and US military are made up mostly of young people who make mistakes. We should not use this tragic accident as an excuse to attack the US military.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I predicted this would happen yesterday when I first read about this, but got so many dislikes. Move over Miss Cleo, call me now!

But, its sad how badly this will affect US-Japan relations especially with the NK fiasco .

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

I meant to write "thank you" Yabaru. I think what you have written is well thought out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The temporary ban on public drinking and restriction to base will work until the next time.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Deepest condolence to the family and friends of Hidemasa Tara.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Rumor has it that the Marine stole the truck!

that would explain the oddity of him being out that early on a Sunday morning if true.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Rumor has it that the Marine stole the truck!

That is being reported as a possibility in the local news too. He was supposed to be wearing his uniform when he was driving the vehicle but he was found with civilian clothes on and his uniform in the front seat next to him after the accident.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@stickdrifter: You are accusing that drink serving business for military personnel low level morality. In Ginza, there are bunch of business that serve alcoholic drinks but those customers do not steal employers' vehicles. I really think low level brained enlistees are selected to serve in Okinawa. Numbers of drinking business outside of base did not choose. Him to be in Okinawa. How do you know where he was drinking midnight?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

He will be in Okinawans court. Probably convicted on Vehicle Manslaughter. Okinawa is a Japanese Prefecture. Don't hope he gets out easily.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Also he will face. Military Court Marshal on stealing and damaging Military vehicle later.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Military may need retraining tight side handle driving for newly arriving soldiers and Japanese driving lessons.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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