U.S. Forces Japan revised its liberty policy Wednesday, allowing servicemembers to stay out a little later starting next month.
The current policy requires servicemembers E-5 and below to be back on base or in a private residence or hotel room between midnight and 5 a.m. It is unpopular but credited with cutting off-base incidents after two visiting U.S. sailors raped an Okinawa woman in October 2012.
The updated policy, signed Wednesday by USFJ commander Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella and effective Dec. 9, will allow troops to stay out as late as 1 a.m., although all personnel, regardless of rank, are still banned from drinking in public off base between midnight and 5 a.m.
The change also removes stricter rules for troops on Okinawa, where military personnel have been banned from drinking at off-base bars and limited to two alcoholic drinks with meals at local restaurants.
In addition, lower-ranked personnel on temporary duty here for less than 150 days, who had been required to have a “liberty buddy” while travelling off base after 7 p.m., will only need one after 10 p.m.
“Authorized commanders may grant individual, event-by-event exceptions of limited duration to the liberty buddy and curfew provisions for specific circumstances,” USFJ spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said.
Commanders can also impose more restrictive provisions or additional measures as necessary due to mission requirements, he said.
The changes come after what Hoffman described as “a careful and thorough review across all the services and commands in Japan on what constitutes an appropriate baseline liberty policy for U.S. military members serving here.”
Before any military members are granted liberty, they must undergo sexual assault response and Japanese cultural training, he said.
“Commanders will ensure their servicemembers are educated on responsible drinking practices,” he said.
Since the liberty policy was imposed, there has been a substantial drop in the number of incidents of misconduct, he said.