Surf Nazis Must Die!! Scuba Diving on Okinawa


Beaches as Battlefields?  Dang Surf Nazis....

Beaches as Battlefields? Dang Surf Nazis….

“Slime-sucking Neanderthal! How dare you question my loyalty?” ~Eva, Surf Nazis Must Die, but more likely, the staff at the Kadena Air Base weather office that make up the Sea Conditions for scuba diving on Okinawa in response to anyone who questions such determinations.

“I am the Führer of the beach!” ~Adolf, Surf Nazis Must Die, but more likely, the Officer-in-Charge of the office mentioned above, no doubt nicknamed “Adolf.”  He’s probably short, clearly with a Napoleonic complex.

Surf Nazis weld Too Much Power

Surf Nazis weld Too Much Power

“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” ~Katharine Hepburn

“Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Intent of the Law should Trump the Letter; Principles are More Important

The Intent of the Law should Trump the Letter; Principles are More Important

I’ve been sulking here, in my condo, since Tuesday, watching through our picture windows overlooking the East China Sea the Japanese scuba dive charter boats come and go all day long to the calm, clear and warm waters of Sunabe, literally our front yard and playground all in one.  Although we have full sets of dive gear, humped across the 10,000 mile journey to Japan in order to use early and often, what we are missing are tanks.

Okinawa 2013, Japanese dive charters at Sunabe

It’s Friday and Great Weather – Look at all those Dive Charters!

You know, those thingies that allow you to breathe underwater and use all that heavy, expensive, and even cool-looking dive gear.

Even Cats Look Cooler in Dive Gear

Even Cats Look Cooler in Dive Gear

Alas, I cannot rent tanks.  At least not from the US-based dive shops on island.  And even if I do rent tanks from any one of the four Japanese dive shops within two blocks of my condo, I’m not “allowed” to enter the water on this beautiful diving day as a SOFA-status dependent.

Why you ask?

A Logical, Unemotional Nazi, but no less a Nazi

A Logical, Unemotional Nazi, but no less a Nazi

Surf Nazis.

And they must die.

Warning Maeda

Maeda Point Warning

Warning Horseshoe

Horseshoe Warning

You see, the military has decided that, like every other dark recess of what used to be our personal lives, that standard rules, regulations and common sense are simply not enough.  That, although we in the United States Military are entrusted to use lethal force in the name of the United States overseas and take lives, such a sacred level of trust simply cannot be extended to recreational activities.  And, even though the organization we work for will not hesitate to put us in severe and prolonged danger, they wish to shield us from anything remotely hazardous outside of normal working hours.  So, even though as certified scuba divers, schooled and tested in all-things dive safety-related, Big Cousin – the military’s fraternal relations to the government’s Big Brother – has decreed that they know better and can dictate our lives in a safer fashion through institution of yet more inane rules.

Onna Point Warnings.  Okay, we get it!!

Onna Point Warnings. Okay, we get it!!

Rules not based on principle.

A Good Idea Gone Wrong as a Rule

A Good Idea Gone Wrong as a Rule

There are “Sea Conditions” on Okinawa, for each coast – East and West.  Now, this is actually a pretty decent idea.  The principle could be sound.  But, “The Bigs Family,” the USG collection of overlords, don’t believe, it appears, it either higher education, or simple logic.  One element of determining Sea Condition is wind speed:  if it is over a certain amount, Danger Will Robison is sounded and not only are the scuba shops barred from renting gear, US personnel on-island are barred from even entering the water.

Okay, it's not this calm, and I didn't take the photo.  But you get the point....

Okay, it’s not this calm, and I didn’t take the photo. But you get the point….

Ludicrous.  Look at this picture taken this morning from my condo of the “dangerous” sea condition!!!  Wow, all those Japanese are surely risking life and limb to go diving today….

The Surf Nazis:  Responsible for Kitten Genocide

The Surf Nazis: Responsible for Kitten Genocide

The problem, you see, is that the Surf Nazis do not take into account wind direction, nor do they even bother with any measure of sea state, both of which are much more indicative of wave action and potential hazardous conditions to divers.  Most waves are wind-driven.  Even at very high velocity, winds need fetch in order to transfer energy to the water.  In other words, wind has to act across a large expanse of unbroken water for waves to build to significant and dangerous height.  Okinawa, being a north-south-oriented island, is a natural wind-break for winds from the east and west, which generally means one coast is rather smooth while the other can be somewhat rough.  Since the majority of diving activities are best situated on its western side, when the winds are blowing out of the east for days straight – as they have been, steady and true – there is not only a complete lack of fetch for the winds to act, the winds actually act in a restorative action to flatten the seas on the west coast, where I happen to live.  Hence the calm, perfect dive weather, even though the winds are blowing 20-25mph….

Beautiful Corals at Sunabe

Beautiful Corals at Sunabe

Diving is in my blood, and I have missed it so.  In Pensacola, I traded this particular hobby and lifestyle with another highly addictive one:  skydiving.  Now that skydiving is gone (there is NO jumping on Okinawa), I’m itching to go diving.  And not just for the fun-in-the-sun, outdoor aspect of being on the beach and in the water.  And not even to see the world-renowned and always entertaining “Girly-Show” of Jody putting on and taking off a wet suit (wink-wink; it’s a scene from a James Bond movie, at least the one that plays in my mind).

Burlesque & Scuba Diving Combined!

Burlesque & Scuba Diving Combined!

It is for the magical exploration that every dive brings, especially here in the sub-tropical Pacific.

Large Pacific Octopus at Sunabe

Large Pacific Octopus at Sunabe

Magical Tentacles

Magical Tentacles

Although I learned to dive in the states (Florida), and did much of my early diving in Florida, primarily in the Florida Keys in the 1990s, I truly didn’t “take” to the recreation until my first stint in Okinawa back in 1999-2001.  At the time my Ex decided to get certified, and she quickly became quite a proficient diver and excellent dive buddy.  This shared experience back then probably saved our marriage, or as it were, delayed its inevitable end for another six years.  Diving became a staple of our lives, mainly because of the world-class diving available on Okinawa, waiting just a few steps and few breaths away from the shore.  And thank goodness; many of my more found memories of that relationship (of which I seldom speak) are dive-centric.

Clowning around an Anemone

Clowning around an Anemone

Danny Diving at Sunabe

Danny Diving at Sunabe

Both my children learned to dive here.  Daniel back in 2001 when he was 13, and Naomi in 2005 at the same age.  We were only able to dive just a couple of times as a family before our nuclear family imploded, and I’m not even sure they have been diving since.  That is a real shame when I think back upon the opportunity wasted for everyone.  Such exploits can have exponentially dramatic impacts on young minds with audacious hearts.

Naomi Entering the Water at Sunabe

Naomi Entering the Water at Sunabe

And now I am able to share this enchanted realm and captivating activity with Jody.  Our first dive together was actually just two weeks ago, here, on Okinawa.  Yes, we have been together almost three years now, but the diving in Pensacola is…well…less inspiring.  And cold.  I have been worried about cementing our dive partnership, since I knew that a healthy portion of our leisure lives on Okinawa for the next three years were going to be concentrated on the water, or, more appropriately, what lies beneath.  And apparently we are doing okay.  She’s still alive, not bent, and not just talking to me, she’s smiling!  In my defense (and credit), in our first three dives here I did spot for her a sea turtle, a large octopus out in the open, and her first Pacific sea anemone, complete with a mating pair of aggressive but fun clown fish!  An auspicious start to this chapter of our lives together I must say.  I am eager to continue writing in this regard, but writing on this subject is best done post-dive, and diving we are, at the moment, not.

A more simplified list of Dive Rules....

A more simplified list of Dive Rules….

I also became a PADI Divemaster here back in 2001, and now I am enrolled in a PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC), where if all goes well, I’ll be a fully certified Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) by the end of October.  And then my playground here will become my classroom everywhere…there is a beach.  And I will work where I love, and will truly be able to say that I love my work.

Me Diving Sunabe, 2006

Me Diving Sunabe, 2006

But first we gotta get those Sea Conditions changed.

SeaCond_fbu1

And those Surf Nazis?  They gotta die.

Surf Nazis should be replaced by the much more permissive Scuba Kitty

Surf Nazis should be replaced by the much more permissive Scuba Kitty

Surf Nazis Must Die

Surf Nazis Must Die

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