Sober and Sobering


“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” ~Henny Youngman

bilde

The line of cars at the gate to Kadena Air Force Base was unusually backed up, given that it was a lazy well-after-the-church-crowd Sunday mid-afternoon. As we joined our place in the queue, I noticed up ahead the gate guards waving their magic wands at each vehicle as it stopped in place for the necessary checks before entering the preeminent American gated community on this island of the Far East.

We approached. “Good afternoon sir, we are conducting a random sobriety test,” the guard politely proclaimed. While I’m sure he didn’t enjoy doing “The Man’s” work anymore than I most certainly would, he remained cordial, pleasant and respectful. Being one never to pass up an opportunity for sarcastic yet mild sedition, and being rather disgusted by such treatment of our people by our people overseas, I replied, “It’s not random if you check every car….” “Ahhhh…uhmmmm, it’s just at random times,” came his meager reply….

Silver Flag 09-09

I’m sick and tired of having my sobriety questioned simply because I am (loosely) associated with the US military presence on Okinawa, Japan. Now, you may claim that a random check at the gate on Sunday afternoon is not all that bad.

But it is. Because it’s not all that random. Fast forward a day, less than 24 hours later. I am driving between the Kadena Exchange and the Fairchild pool (where I teach scuba), both within the confines of Kadena Air Force Base, and elect to take a back road, one that runs by the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) club, “The Rocker.” Approaching the Rocker, I spy two uniformed military police officers standing in the road at a four-way intersection. Evident in their hands are the wands which they brandish….

Yep, checked again to see if I had been drinking, at 1230 on a Monday afternoon. But it isn’t even the two checks in 22 hours that is most insulting; it’s that the cops are purposely staking out one of the on-base clubs so they can catch some poor sap who had a beer with his lunch….

50419026

Or, even worse, the military has instituted random sobriety checks…in the workplace. Now, regardless of position or rank or the 26 years of faithful, honorable, and trouble-free service you proven yourself with, you blow into the machine just like everyone else. In the past, only the Commanding Officers of units could authorize a “fit for duty” screen for alcohol…and that had to be based on some type of the military’s less stringent version of our Constitutionally guaranteed probable cause. Worse, the practice is not evidence based: the military is just not rife with drunks on the job, even though it has its share of highly functioning alcoholics.

I’ve written about the massive failure in our senior leadership in the modern military before (See Sorry…for the Epic Fail). The failure isn’t found in the fact that some servicemembers continue to drink and drive; as a slice of the wider American pie, the military will always have its share of “bad apples.” Rather, it’s in the “suspect and punish the masses” approach to enforcing the unnecessarily strict liberty policies our leaders have already enacted.

multigraph 2

Civilian Deaths in Iraq by Year and Month as a result of the US-Led Coalition invasion in 2003.

But there’s a much more sobering aspect to this misplaced and unwarranted focus on drinking. If the military only put the same emphasis in avoiding collateral damage on the many battlefields that our leadership, civilian and military, have decided to fight upon, the world would be a much better place.  And many more innocent lives would be uninterrupted by death, unmolested by injury and inoculated a good measure of suffering.

It’s hard to put forward a reliable figure for just how many people have been killed and wounded as a result of the US-led coalition warring in Iraq since 2003. It’s pretty clear just doing a few minutes of reading online that clearly no one knows with any measure of certainty. But there are some “facts” that are, well, at least widely recognized and accepted. One is this: there have been more than 133,000 individually recorded civilian deaths since the 2003 invasion of Iraq due to direct war-related violence, a truly sobering realization. These are documented fatalities based on hospital and morgue records, and includes official government accounts.

Where are the protests about unnecessary civilian deaths?

Where are the protests about unnecessary civilian deaths?

However, other sources say such figures are massively underestimated, as they do not consider fatalities from indirect causes of war. In this characterization, upwards of a half a million possibly have died from war-related (direct and indirect) causes in Iraq since 2003. Indirect causes include other avoidable deaths linked to our invasion, such as those caused by insurgencies and subsequent social breakdown. All told, almost 1 in 10 Iraqis have been directly affected by being either killed, wounded, or displaced.

I’m not saying that drinking and driving isn’t an issue. It’s just that, for the military, there are more pressing concerns that dwarf the drunk driving “crisis” that has been rather artificially crafted and politically inflated. Although the number of traffic accidents involving intoxicated drivers in Japan has fallen greatly in the past decade, it is, to the Japanese, still unacceptably high. In 2011, there were 5,029 alcohol-related accidents, down from 25,400 in 2001, a massive reduction by any standard. According to a 2009 study by the Japanese National Police Agency, 57% of arrested drunk drivers were second offenders. Sound familiar?

Chart-showing-the-rate-of-fatal-accidents-involving-drunk-drivers

Accidents (Red) and Fatal Accidents (Blue), both Drink-Related

But let’s try and get a realistic handle on just how serious the problem may be. Data from the Fukuoka Prefectural Police records of traffic accidents between 1987 and 1996 show that 58,421 male drivers were involved in traffic accidents during the 10-year study period, and that 271 of these were killed as a result. That’s equivalent to just about how many drink-related fatalities occur on the roads of Alabama every year (same rates, roughly same population at/near 5 million). Among male motorcar drivers, the odds of being killed in an accident increased by 4 over drivers who remained sober prior to driving.

Of all the Japanese Prefectures, Okinawa has had the highest rate of accidents causing injury or death involving drunk drivers in Japan for 24 consecutive years. And contrary to what you might think given the way the military mistreats their own in all matters drink, it’s not the American’s fault. Far from it.

The Okinawa Prefectural Police data show Okinawa has the highest number of drunk drivers arrested for every 1,000 people in Japan, roughly about 125 people every month. Very few of these are US military or here because of the US military. The prefecture also often has the highest car-accident death rate involving drunk drivers. And although Okinawa is aggressively attempting to prevent drunk driving and has a low 0.03 BAC, rates of drunken driving have not changed. On Okinawa in 2013 there were 6,664 accidents causing injury or death, while only about two percent (134 cases) involved drunk driving, a rate about 2.8 times the Japanese national average. At the same time, over 1,350 drunk drivers were arrested, a rate of 1 in every 10,000 people in Okinawa, about 4.3 times the national average.

Probable-Cause

Yes, drunk driving is a problem, a serious problem, and of course actions should be taken to curb as much of it as possible. Believe me, it impacted my life personally when my brother many years ago came very close to being murdered by a drunk driver while stopped at a red light. But on Okinawa, it is NOT an American “problem,” although the local politics and high-profile media reporting attempt to make it so. Politics is politics even here in the Far East, and all politics are local, and in this corner of the Far East even minor incidents stoke anti-US military tensions that already are running high as local citizens and Okinawan politicians clamor for a reduced presence of the US military on Okinawa.

Thus we have our ridiculous and unpoliceable liberty restrictions. The midnight-to-5 a.m. prohibition, which covers all branches of the military on Okinawa (but oddly and clearly discriminatorily not the rest of Japan), applies to any establishment where the “primary business is the sale and consumption of alcohol.” And for those wishing to drink off-base, you can only do so with a meal, and then are allowed only two drinks…and only in a public place.

Even the Colonels, Combat Leaders of Men, require liberty cards on Okinawa.

Even the Colonels, Combat Leaders of Men, require liberty cards on Okinawa.

The rules are a bird’s nest tangle of rules and regulations. For instance, you cannot go to someone else’s home off-base and drink. Living off-base, you are supposed to still self-ground yourself and abide by the wider military curfew. Battle Buddies are required for junior personnel to even leave base (in the hours they can), and overnight liberty requires special permission…and then the curfew still applies wherever one might overnight. Oh, and even pedestrians coming and going from base are checked: the liberty policy says you can’t be out in town with over a 0.03 BAC period. So you even get in trouble for walking through the gate – either way – if you had a beer or two in the last hour!

Reasonable, right?

WRONG. It’s just freakin’ silliness and contradictory, and everyone knows it. The Exchange sells massive amounts of alcohol (along with smokes and chew). The drinking restrictions and the curfew don’t apply on-base. In other words, you can drink until you puke your guts out, as long as you don’t leave base or drive on base. So, all the polices, rules, regulations and restrictions are not really about protecting “us” (even if it’s from ourselves) or ensuring the health and welfare of our service members. It’s really about avoiding embarrassment and bad press. Plus there’s simply too much money to be made selling such popular vices. Oddly enough, the military then has to fund and provide a plethora of treatment and cessation courses, classes and treatment for booze, smokes and chew, all the same things they push openly and publicly at the same time. The proverbial self-licking ice cream cone.

It’s time that our military leadership grow a backbone and defend the VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WHO DO THE RIGHT THING. Literally tens of thousands of soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines here on Okinawa never do anything wrong. The majority have squeaky clean service records, and are trusted with multi-million dollar pieces of equipment, with lethal force, and with other peoples’ lives.

Uncle Sam also is a big believer in "probable cause"

Uncle Sam also is a big believer in “probable cause”

Recently a Gunny friend of mine, an E7 in the USMC, had to handle an “Alcohol Related Incident” (ARI), a serious one involving disorderly conduct off-base and an assault of a Japanese policeman (the Police later dropped charges). Rather than send this Marine back home and punish him with immediate restriction or non-judicial punishment, he was simply dropped off at his barracks and told to stay put.  The unit CO, instead of focusing on this problem-child, recalled all his Marines…on Sunday afternoon…made them put uniforms on…where they stood in formation while getting a “talking to.” What they should have gotten was a text message saying, “Hey, your Skipper here: THANK YOU for doing the right thing this weekend!”

Why on earth does the military insist of making everyone pay? Why does the military blame everyone else, including friends and local leadership when an individual does something really stupid? How on earth do the actions of less than 0.5% of the force equal a “systemic failure in leadership”? Would you punish all your children when only one didn’t do their homework? Does a whole family get arrested when one person buys or uses drugs? Where else do we punish the masses for the transgressions of the one? What is sorely missing in the modern military is 1) personal accountability for a lack of personal responsibility for the 0.5% do-wrongers, and 2) positive reinforcement for the 99.5% of the troops that constantly and continually do the right thing.

Japan has made amazing strides in drunk driving, and it's not by restricting the public's liberties....

Japan has made amazing strides in drunk driving, and it’s not by restricting the public’s liberties….

So, while we may mistakenly “trust” all those Lance Corporals out there not to kill the innocents while using lethal force overseas in the name of the United States, they all are no less than one or two drinks away from becoming a serial rapist or violent felon when back home on Okinawa. I’m afraid that the military is neglecting to put the same amount of effort and emphasis on promoting the morality of killing and rules of engagement to better avoid “collateral damage,” but I suspect we are not. If only the half a million of dead and injured civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in the same measure of bad press, political consequence, and threat to American military-industrial interests, perhaps things would be different.

 

The following sources were used to compile the facts on figures used in this blog:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/iraq-death-toll_n_4102855.html

https://www.iraqbodycount.org/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/iraq-civilian-casualties/

http://costsofwar.org/article/iraqi-civilians

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17114088

http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2014/03/04/13286/

Death by Public Service Announcement: Commercials on AFN


fear

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

“To him who is in fear everything rustles.” ~ Sophocles

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.” ~ Christian Nestell Bovee

Yoda-Fear-is-the-path-to-the-dark-side_-Fear-leads-to-anger_-Anger-leads-to-hate_-Hate-leads-to-suffering-Yoda

Okay, I’ve decided to finally try to capture the true nature and extent of the Commercially Induced Culture of Fear that the military has created and under which it seems to thrive overseas when they hold the monopoly on most, if not all things media.

I’m talking about the commercials on Armed Forces Network (AFN).  Well, actually they should be more appropriately called Public Service Announcements.

But then again, they are none of those things.

They are crafted not for the public, but for what I can only assume is us, the people our leadership considers wholly mindless, relatively incapable, and quite immature military servicemembers and dependents on the island.  Sorry contractors – you fall somewhere in that mix as well, although you are generally compensated much more appropriately to endure this pain and suffering..

The only “service” from these PSA’s is in a nostalgic, prison-influenced characterization of “time-served” once removed from Okinawa and it’s falsely created, media-limited bubble.  Any prudent, normalized American would and could only assume such attempts at brain-washing and behavioral control would be attempted on, say, designated political deviants in a gulag of the ex-USSR…or within Camp X-Ray of GTMO in 2003.

the-culture-of-fear-9781572703544

And finally, announcement is defined by Google as “a public and typically formal statement about a fact, occurrence, or intention.”  Okay, we’ve already talked about intentions (see brain-washing and behavioral control above, if you need reminded, which the military would assume given that you are mindless and incapable on your own), and while the barebones facts of the content making up this propaganda in many cases are sound, they are projected or extrapolated into occurrences which, in one way or another, will kill you….

So, I’ve taken notes on the commercials I heard yesterday.  Now, remember, this is for one day and one day only.  It does encompass scanning back and forth between the one AM and one FM station available here.  But it’s even better than that:  it’s for only that time in one day when I was in my car.  Which is, basically, a trip or two to a store and/or the commissary, a trip to the gym, perhaps a dive shop or two, and finally a relatively long detour to a different exit from the base due to an accident and massive traffic backup….  But still probably no more than 90 minutes.  Check this out and tell me I’m not over-reacting:

  • Vaccines.  Get your dang adult vaccines or HPV, Tetanus, Shingles and Whopping Cough will kill you, your family, and your friends.  Okay, I’ll give the military this:  Tetanus is a killer, and HPV can cause cancer…which is a killer.  BUT, being in or associated with the military here on Okinawa, we all are screen for and required to get vaccines (see Always Listen to your Momma)!  So what’s the point??
The Vaccine that we all really need....

The Vaccine that we all really need….

  • FDIC.  Yes, without the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, your money isn’t safe, and ultimately you will die.  Except this time poor and destitute.
IOUs are about as good as Cash

IOUs are about as good as Cash

  • Water Safety.  Swimming and/or water sports can result in drowning…which will kill you.  If you gave in to the warnings, you wouldn’t even look at the water with any sense of longing or excitement.

funny-licorice-food-candy-storage-yummy-eat-snack2

  • Finances.  If you don’t plan well, you run out of time to build a retirement and then you die.  Poor once again.  Imagine if you ignored financial planning AND blew off the FDIC.  Surely a sign of the End of Days.
A Typical Approach to Retirement Planning

A Typical Approach to Retirement Planning

  • Emergency Room.  The order cases are taken are based on triage (who doesn’t know this??), so don’t forget that unless you are dying, you’ll have to wait….
Don't use the ER as your Family Practice Clinic.  Or dentist....

Don’t use the ER as your Family Practice Clinic. Or dentist….

  • Tours.  Okay, there was something helpful about upcoming tours offered by the Air Force and Marine Corps.  But seriously, a 30 minute radio show?  The radio personalities on AFN barely know how to operate the former, and lack the latter.

161980_108280722579736_1276769_n

  • Integrity.  Dirt-bag airmen will in some bizarre linkage of unintended consequences, you guessed it, kill you.  Something about “resilient airmen,” whatever that means, although it suspiciously seems connected with all the highly flexing yoga I see the Air Force doing at the base gym.
Real Integrity.  And Guts.

Real Integrity. And Guts.

  • Heroes.  An interesting snippet on General Marshall, of “Marshall Plan” fame.  I’ve tried, but I don’t see much chance of dying from this one.  Although the piece does tie him to setting the state for the European Union, which may in the coming hears lead to the deaths of a number of national economies.

general_george_marshall-1

  • Terror.  Yes, terrorists will kill you.  Even though Okinawa is, factually, the safest place I’ve live and will ever live, we are led to believe that just about everyone and everything should be considered suspicious.  No doubt we should be hugging our pillows tight and sleeping with one eye open.

Funny_Pictures_19721-s610x488-60248

  • DUI.  Drinking and driving will kill you, your friends, and someone else’s family.  True enough.  This is an issue here on Okinawa, but not because of the Japanese; the vast majority of tickets, arrests, and related issues are initiated by Americans on and to Americans.
Drunk Uncle to the Easter Bunny

Drunk Uncle to the Easter Bunny

  • Sports Pads.  Without them, you’ll die….  Don’t forget that mouth-guard!  Even knocked-out teeth can die.
Not to mention bike helmets....

Not to mention bike helmets….

  • Seatbelts.  Adult seatbelts will kill your kids.  Oh, so will airbags…when using adult seatbelts.  The piece doesn’t say anything about bouncing around the back of a station wagon like we all did growing up.
But what about our pets??

But what about our pets??

  • Etiquette.  You would not believe how often I hear this particular commercial:  “The Senior Member Enters a Car Last so that they may Exit the Car First.”  Really?  And who the heck requires this timely piece of military etiquette?  I can only imagine that an overly irate senior-ranking member of the AFN establishment might be so frustrated over the insult of leaving the car second (or god forbid, last) that they would resort to murder.
The Etiquette surrounding an office love-affair with a Jeanie is a bit more involved.

The Etiquette surrounding an office love-affair with a Jeanie is a bit more involved.

  • Spice & Salvia.  Taking drugs will kill you.  Oh, so will supplements.
Probably not the Spice in question.

Probably not the Spice in question.

  • Typhoons.  Even in Tropical Typhoon Condition of Readiness 4 – the lowest, base level of concern during the entire season, a typhoon can kill you within 72 hours.
Typhoons are deadly...to Asian umbrellas!

Typhoons are deadly…to Asian umbrellas!

  • CAC Cards.  If you lose your ID card, a terrorist will get it and ultimately kill you.  See “Terror” above.
Some IDs ARE a license to kill.

Some IDs ARE a license to kill.

  • VA.  A playful take of VA benefits and services using a “greatest hits” approach.  But not playful enough to be entertaining the 2nd through 23rd times heard.
This Culture of Fear is not helping those with PTSD

This Culture of Fear is not helping PTSD

And finally, I saved my favorite for last.  Against all this other fearful chatter, there is the most odd and misplaced radio ditty concerning breast-feeding called “Every Ounce Counts;” you can listen to song Healthy Baby Healthy Mama here.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a full-time supporter of breastfeeding, and understand pretty well all the benefits to baby and Mom that come from this wholly natural and nature’s intended way of feeding babies.  But seriously, is this radio spot really necessary?  I cringe every time I hear this song and can’t help but think about the continual castration of the warrior class of the military long past….

Oops.  This pint-sized glass if for another type of drink....

Oops. This pint-sized glass if for another type of drink….

But, more critically, I would love to see a serious medical research study done on the effects and efficacy of such attempts at mind and behavioral control.  Two things strike me – a non-medically trained observer, but one with quite a bit of graduate education.

First, creating a culture of fear and imposing this culture on people 24/7 is counter-productive.  You can only cry “Wolf!” or that the “Sky is falling!” so many times before someone simply stops listening, and more dangerously, they stop caring.  The military reaches this point after a week on-island.  A persuasive and over-stated culture of fear benefits no one.

Radio does have its place.

Radio does have its place.

Second, there could be consequences, potentially serious, for subjecting the force to this type of indoctrination.  If you tell a young, moldable minded individual that everyone and everything, everywhere and anywhere, is dangerous, what results?  There is where a formalized study would not only be interesting but is one I believe long overdue and ultimately necessary.

funny-deaths-count-war

I’ve written about the failures of military leadership in this blog before (see Epic Fail), and about AFN too (see Team America).  The commercials or PSAs or whatever you want to call them are the source of a lot of consternation online, the source of a whole slew of jokes on-island, and worst, is responsible for creating an overall lack of respect for the governmental-military-industrial complex…which includes leadership, large and small.  The fact that the collective “we” of the military community on Okinawa are continually subjected to be treated like children who don’t know any better so that we must be constantly reminded about the dangers around every corner and in every person, action, place or thing actually results in a backlash against the establishment.  And why leadership can’t see this, why they are not more aware of just how bad AFN is in this regard and how badly it is perceived, to me means they aren’t listening.

To AFN.  Or to those they wish to lead.  Now that’s something that truly should be feared.

Fear is a prison for your mind

Sorry (申し訳ありませんでした)…for the Epic Fail


Moushiwake Gozaimasen Deshita (申し訳ありませんでした)

Gomenasai Girl Bows in Apology

Gomenasai Girl Bows in Apology

Or, “Give me Liberty, or Give me…two Drinks…but only at dinner…between the hours of 6pm and 10pm…not in a club or bar.” ~What Patrick Henry would say today on Okinawa to keep himself from the gallows.

Or, more directly, “I am now treated like a child who’s merely one alcoholic beverage away from becoming a serial rapist.” ~HM1 Mark Nelson, in response to the recently imposed strict liberty policy on US forces throughout Japan.

Excuse the Cat - He's Sorry Too

Excuse the Cat – He’s Sorry Too

I’m sorry.  That’s what the headline reads, more or less.  There are actually something like eleven ways to apologize in Japanese depending on the formality of the situation and the seriousness of the offense, and I chose – I think – one of the more formal and “apologetic” near the top of the list.

What I am so formally and seriously sorry for?

leaders have your back

I’m sorry for the epic leadership failure in Japan.  Epic Failures both in the civilian leadership of the US Department of Defense, and more so in the failed qualities and inexplicable actions of senior leadership in uniform today.  And, I must admit, some of this invective spills over to the Japanese leadership as well…with their own brand of political correctness, unrealistic expectations and quite possibly some hidden agenda.

Now, I must say this, LOUD AND CLEAR:  whatever I state here is not meant in any way, shape or form to exonerate or otherwise reduce the seriousness of any wrongdoing by an American against the Japanese – ever, anywhere, for any offense.  I am a firm supporter of the Japanese, their culture, and a Lover of all things Okinawa (this is my third time living on the island, now in my 5th year).  I believe we are in Japan at their invitation, are should act accordingly as guests.  I categorically reject the notion of violence against any civilian, sexual assault or harassment of any kind, as well as the abuse of alcohol, particularly when driving or military duties are concerned.  However, enough is enough, and it’s time to cry “uncle:”  Americans, using the Japanese government’s own data, commit far less crime than do Okinawans, but are held to an impossible standard, and generally used as nothing more than a pawn in an emotional movement to remove American bases from Okinawa….

Protest is Understandable

Protest is Understandable; Everyone are Terrorists these Days

But first a review of liberty policy in Japan to help illuminate what I mean.  The liberty policy statement below is from the official III MEF/Marine Corps Installation Pacific Facebook page (which is odd in and of itself, but at least the Corps is hip enough to embrace social media), italics and underline added for editorial emphasis:

***OFFICIAL LIBERTY POLICY STATEMENT***

“In order to reinforce responsible behavior and support our continued, positive relationships with the local communities we live in, Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Okinawa Area Coordinator for U.S. Forces Japan, has instituted refined instructions for all U.S. service members in Okinawa, as well as all U.S. Marines in Japan.

The following measures apply to all U.S. installations and service members on Okinawa and all Marines in Japan, effective immediately.  Detailed instructions for implementing these policies have been issued to commands:

1.  On-base alcohol sales are banned from 10 pm to 8 am daily.

2.  Service members are prohibited from purchasing or consuming alcohol off-base (except in their own off-base residence).

3.  Service members are prohibited from departing military installations or their own off-base residence under the influence of alcohol.  Service members found with a Blood Alcohol Content of .03% or greater will not be allowed off base liberty.

These measures remain in effect until further notice, and are additive to other, existing policies. The USFJ 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect.

This policy recognizes that the overwhelming majority of American service members, dependents and civilian employees are law abiding, honorable and respectful.  We continue our unwavering commitment to support them and the communities we live in by educating service members and encouraging exemplary standards of professional conduct, on and off duty.

leadership

This was the original “liberty policy” put into effect on Okinawa following the violent rape of an Okinawan woman in 2012.  This policy, however, has since been modified – as they always are given time – but this modification clearly shows the military leadership’s continued disdain for our members on Okinawa, even though the rapists where part of a ship’s company NOT STATIONED ON OKINAWA.  For military personnel outside of Okinawa, alcohol regulations are limited to a ban on off-installation drinking — with the exception of personal residences — from midnight to 5 a.m.  On the island, however, rules will become only slightly less stringent as troops are limited to two alcoholic drinks at off-installation restaurants [not bars or clubs, but establishments that primarily serve food….] between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., unless specifically authorized by a general or flag officer for official events.”

Lockdown is Way Too Simple

Lockdown is Way Too Simple

A series of violent incidents, culminating in the rape of an Okinawan woman by two sailors last October, prompted Lt. Gen. Angelella, Commander US Forces Japan (USFJ), to impose a sweeping 11 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew on all troops and to implement training in sexual-assault prevention, cultural indoctrination and “core values”— most which still remain in effect.  I’m not sure where any American would assume or decide that violence is part of the Japanese or Okinawan culture; the idea of cultural indoctrination is yet another layer of well-intended but relatively useless and mind-numbing training that so often goes awry when it hits the field.

Air Force Lt. Col. Dave Hochul, a spokesman for USFJ, said Angelella recently decided to adjust the universal liberty policy after consulting with military leaders across Japan “to retain existing liberty measures while addressing some quality-of-life concerns for our forces.”  “Some.”  Mighty nice of our leadership to oblige the little people’s concerns.

What if CO's had Peer & Subordinate Ratings?

What if CO’s had Peer & Subordinate Ratings?

It is cruelly evident that our leadership appeases a very few at the expense of oh so many.  The Japanese citizens, and specifically the vocal and impassioned Okinawans that wish U.S. bases removed from their island home, which most Americans should find easily understandable, will not be satisfied regardless of these stringent liberty-curtailing efforts.  Their agenda is clear and was established long ago:  it is not he bad behavior they wish corrected, but the removal of our bases – very different end states by any analysis.  Quite the opposite actually holds true:  such activists will only hold such crushing measures as ample “proof” that Americans can never be trusted to be well-behaved members of their local neighborhoods and island-wide culture.

I Feel the Okinawan Pain; I too would want the bases gone.

I Feel the Okinawan Pain; I too would want the bases gone.

Further, such decisions by our leadership have and will continue to anger the Japanese citizens whose livelihood is dependent upon the U.S. presence on-island.  The Marine Corps has remained tough on its drinking regulations, even though the other services relaxed their policies, which has drastically curbed island nightlife and caused dozens of Japanese bars and clubs to fold.

This Bar Probably Needed to Close!

This Bar Probably Needed to Close!

Poignantly and to the point, mass punishment without cause or justified aim destroys morale at its grass roots, an idea archaic as it is in parenting, and like in modern parenting, such unfounded and ruthless measures are simply a result of bad leadership…which results in even more ill-adjusted offspring.  The correlations are valid:  set the bar low, and no one will strive for better.  Good parents know this.  Good teachers know this.  Good military instructors know this.

It appears that our poor leadership has forgotten it, or worse, choses to direct to the contrary.

rank & smarts

“This policy recognizes that the overwhelming majority of American service members, dependents and civilian employees are law abiding, honorable and respectful.”  The liberty policy does nothing of the sort.  Rather, it implores that Americans in Japan are not to be trusted, and must be treated as a class-action underclass in order to control expected unruly behavior.  As one sailor puts it so succinctly, “I am now treated like a child who’s merely one alcoholic beverage away from becoming a serial rapist.”  If the policy recognized that the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY were indeed honorable and respectful, they would be shown the same type of overwhelming honor and respect.  This is not the case; current policy is the clearest case of double-speak by our leaders, so clear that any Airman or Corporal will – and does – see right through the charade.

“We continue our unwavering commitment to support them and the communities we live in by educating service members and encouraging exemplary standards of professional conduct, on and off duty.”  Again, this policy does nothing of the sort.  It demonstrates to our service men and women that their executive leadership actually wavers in their commitment and support at the first hint of trouble, and that they will turn their backs in support of politicians and international bad press by instituting unfounded, illogical, and ungrounded means and methods of authoritarian control…simply because they can.

Reading Between the Policy's Lines....

Reading Between the Policy’s Lines….

Furthermore, there is still a great question as to whom the policy actually applies.  Does it concern or apply to military dependents, or other civilians on island with SOFA status?  Apparently not.  III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific clarified this case by stating, “To clarify, the new policy applies to service members.  However, we are all unofficial ambassadors while we live here on Okinawa.”  It does appear, oddly enough – and in another demonstration of the lack of consistency and logic in implementing military policy in Japan – that this is service-specific…and dependent.  The Navy has extended the policy to all people with SOFA status, which may quite possibly be legally disallowed.

Liberty Guidelines (1-Jun-13)

But, let’s try and look at some evidence-based facets of this situation instead.  It remains unclear whether the tight restrictions and curfew have affected the overall number of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel on Okinawa.  This conclusion reached according to arrest statistics provided by Okinawa’s own Prefectural Police.  Rather, these policies, like so many of those in America, are more of a knee-jerk over-reaction that lake any vigor or substantive efficacy.  Think armed troops in all our airports after 9-11.

Who remembers the infamous "DUI Clock"??

Who remembers the infamous “DUI Clock”??

For instance, there were 12 criminal arrests of Americans connected to the military in the first four months of 2013 on Okinawa; nine of these twelve were of minor military dependents.  The average number of such US military-presence related arrests over a four-month period is about 14, according to police data for 2008-12.  So, in this example, one could argue that the policy has reduced the number of arrests by ~14%.  But, there are two tragic flaws in reach such a rash but alluring conclusion:  first, correlation does itself not prove causation (there could be any number of other factors at play, let alone the very small sample size alone); but more importantly, 2) a full 75% of those arrested in 2013 are minors, not affected by the alcohol policy in any way, and themselves already under a curfew by existing Japanese law!

On an even more significant note, Americans connected to the military accounted for only about 1.4% of the 969 criminal arrests on Okinawa so far this year.  So, assuming the population of Okinawa is 1.385M, and the US presence on the island hovers around 60,000 (4.3%, military + dependents), Americans actually commit serious crime at rate below that of a nominal Okinawan….  In other words, we – the Americans – should be committing crimes at about three times the current rate.  If the Japanese government really wishes for the US military to “rein in the behavior of US forces in Japan,” perhaps they should show at least as much concern over their own citizenry.

Just looking at this Restaurant costs you one of the two preciously allowed drinks

Just looking at this Restaurant costs you one of the two preciously allowed drinks

“Right now, I don’t have any plans to change the liberty policy throughout the rest of Japan. I think we’ve got it about right,” Angelella said during a visit to Okinawa. “I see it as more of an inconvenience to our young service-members rather than a real crisis for them.”  The General has missed the point that his young service-members are taking from his poor leadership:  the curtailment of an American’s liberty is ALWAYS taken as a serious offense, particularly when it is unfounded, and in the civilian sector, it is unlawful.  Oh, and the policy doesn’t just apply to “young service-members,” but ALL Americans in uniform.  Such volunteers already give up enough of their freedoms, many of which are done willingly and for good and obvious cause.  However, the policies in Japan are a wholly different matter, and it begins to beg the question:  why would anyone want to serve in the military when the military itself doesn’t trust Americans to serve?

“I’m going to have to wait and see how we do here in the future,” Angelella said. “I think over time, if the situation warrants, we might be able to get to the point where the liberty policy throughout Japan is the same.”  Remember, the two rapists in Okinawa where not even stationed on Okinawa, but were ship’s company on a ship home-ported in mainland Japan.  How can this ever be construed as equitable treatment of forces in Japan?  And why is Okinawa STILL being singled out when the most violent offenders have no connection to Okinawa?

no-drinking-sign

My thoughts here are captured well by a recent article in the Navy Timespunishing everyone for the misdeeds of a few lousy shipmates has to go.  Sailors say mass punishment is both unfair and ineffective and — due to a number of recent leadership steps — has turned their beloved Navy into a nanny state.

Many complain of new burdens, such as even more sexual assault prevention training, and having to blow into an “alcohol detection device” when showing up to work.  Good sailors point out they’d never assault anyone or show up to work drunk — it’s the dirtbags who do that.  So rather than punish everyone for their actions, sailors say, why not just make public examples of the screw-ups and throw them out?  “In 18 years, I haven’t sexually assaulted anyone, but I am forced to attend ridiculous kindergarten-style force-fed training on how to not sexually assault my shipmates,” one sailor told Navy Times.  “Hold rule-breakers accountable and leave the rest of the fleet alone.”  More than 100 sailors responding to Navy Times on the topic of collective punishment voiced similar concerns.

The Military Just Might Need a Batman to Set Things Right

The Military Just Might Need a Batman to Set Things Right

Early in his Navy career, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SW) Mark Nelson enjoyed exploring ports in the Pacific, often traveling alone and staying at obscure hotels where he could meet locals, something he said enriched his experiences.  “As long as I didn’t do anything really stupid (meaning: get arrested) and made it back reasonably sober for duty and ship’s movement, I was a free man,” Nelson told Navy Times.  He took a break in service, rejoined as a reservist in 2007, and has since traveled to some of the same ports, including Guam, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.  His experience, however, has been very different.  “I am now treated like a child who’s merely one alcoholic beverage away from becoming a serial rapist.  What the hell has happened to my Navy?” he said via email.

I believe the liberty policy works about this well...

I believe the liberty policy works about this well…

I echo this sentiment exactly.  During my first sea tour, where as a 25 year-old I was entrusted to fly combat missions in the 1991 Gulf War, I was equally entrusted on liberty – and went on my own solo adventures in Thailand.  As long as I made it back for duty section and muster, there were no questions asked, and no worries.  Back then, it wasn’t just a job; it indeed was an adventure!  That slogan is no longer utilized for good reason.  Fast-forward to 2004, and the trust has evaporated; we are limited to “sand-box” liberty pier-side, and when we can go out into town, we can only book hotels through the USO, and then only with a buddy, who you had to leave and return to the ship with.  This for a man who stood an Air Defense Commander watch for a 3-ship Expeditionary Strike Group….  Needless to say that I couldn’t wait for my 20 years to expire.

Nelson’s frustration is shared by many readers who claim the service is becoming too politically correct. They say being treated like a child encourages sailors to act like children, and that mass punishments are morale-crushing.  A number of sailors cited examples like this as a reason not to re-enlist.  “I refuse to be held accountable for the actions of a fellow adult who has been read the same laws as myself,” wrote an IC3 aboard the carrier John C. Stennis.

The finger's pointing at you, Leaders

The finger’s pointing at you, Leaders

Some argued that tightening the rules in 7th Fleet has only exacerbated the problem.  “We treat grown men and women like teenagers and ground them,” wrote a petty officer second class aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard.  Limiting liberty hours, for example, encourages sailors to pound more alcohol in the window they have, which leads to binge drinking and further incidents, he reasoned.

I have always believed one simple truth about the military:  the military is a sociological shake of the American apple tree, and given that shake, there is a whole spectrum of apples which fall.  Although most are good, there are always going to be those few “bad apples,” and for the baddest of those bad, no amount of training, no amount of leadership, and no amount of shipmates are going to change their bad behavior and even worse judgment.  No amount of rule change is going to stop dirtbags.  “The dumb folks are always going to do what the dumb folks do,” as Nelson bluntly put it.  Put another way, some people will never care about rules, or their consequences.  They are the undeterable.

Bad Leadership

Bad Leadership

Moushiwake Gozaimasen Deshita.  I’m so sorry for the Epic Leadership Fail on Okinawa.  God bless our troops…from the enemy within.

Now I’m going to have those two drinks.

Don’t worry, I’m eating dinner (wink).

Cowbell