View Full Version : Rumored end of base restrictions on Okinawa denied by Marine officials

02-22-08, 08:21 AM
Rumored end of base restrictions on Okinawa denied by Marine officials
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, February 23, 2008

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine officials Thursday shot down rumors that a base restriction for all military-sponsored Americans on the island would end Monday.

“The period of reflection will last for an indefinite period of time,” a press release issued by Marine Corps Bases Japan stated. “At this time, we cannot speculate on future changes to the order.”

The restriction was imposed Tuesday by Marine Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer in his capacity as the Okinawa Area Coordinator, the highest-ranking U.S. officer on Okinawa. It affects all military personnel, dependents and Defense Department civilians on Okinawa and on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Camp Fuji in mainland Japan.

Under the order they are restricted to their bases, except for travel to their off-base homes, place of duty or employment, worship, education, or medical or dental treatment. All other activity outside the bases, such as shopping or frequenting off-base restaurants and clubs, is prohibited.

Local restaurants were particularly hard-hit.

“I’m standing in an almost empty parking lot,” one restaurant owner outside Camp Foster said Thursday. He asked not to be named.

“I want my customers to come back, and the last thing I want is to have my name connected to complaining about the restriction order,” the owner said. “What bothers me is that the military is punishing all Americans on the island for the acts of one or two stupid individuals.”

At 11:30 a.m., the time his American customers start to fill his tables, the restaurant was almost empty. “Fortunately, I have a good Okinawan clientele,” he said. “They just come a little later in the afternoon.”

SOFA-status personnel were informed of the restriction at their workplaces, by e-mail and on the American Forces Network, and some were reminded as they left their bases Thursday.

People who live in the Okinawa community were told the restriction barred them from shopping at local stores and even visiting friends who live off-base. At times, traffic was tied up at some gates as information was passed by enlisted Marines assigned to spread the word.

Gates, facilities adopt new hours of operation

To ease base traffic flow, new gate closing hours were established on camps Foster and Lester, Marines announced. The Building One, PX, Kishaba Housing and Spot gates will close from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Globe and Anchor, Legion, Plaza, North Foster Tower and Lester Gate One will remain open around the clock.

The Futenma Housing and Lester Gate Two will continue to be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In response to the restriction order, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service extended the hours of some of its businesses through the weekend.

On Kadena Air Base, the exchange will remain open until 10 p.m. each day, and the Fairchild Retail and gas pumps will be open 24 hours.

The Mainstreet Food Court will remain open until 11 p.m. The Keystone Theater will show movies until 1:30 a.m. both nights.

On Camp Foster, the theater will remain open until midnight, and some fast food outlets will remain open 24 hours. The exchange will stay open until 10 p.m., and base shopettes will stay open 24 hours.

Changes on other bases include the shopettes on Camp Lester and Camp Hansen, which will stay open 24 hours, and the Camp Hansen theater, which will show movies through 1 a.m. each night.

Fast-food outlets on other bases will have extended hours, according to an AAFES press release.

Another change reported by Marines on Thursday is the schedule for the Green Line interbase bus service. The Green Line will extend the hours of departures for its express buses Monday through Thursday for the duration of the restriction, adding two hours to the schedule. Final departures will be at 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.

The change will not affect intra-camp shuttles No. 11, 44, 55, and 66, according to a press release. Operation of the No. 14 Express Bus is suspended, and the hours of the No. 33 Intra Shuttle will be reduced to support the extension of operating hours.

— David Allen