Two weeks ago a thirty-eight year-old Marine allegedly raped a fourteen year-old Okinawan girl in his car. This was the first in a few crimes committed by U.S. service members in Okinawa, Japan and off site of U.S. military installations within a period of a week. The repercussions of these events have resulted in a “Period of Reflection” of all SOFA status personnel and their families. In a nut shell this means that until further notice all SOFA status people, no matter their age, must limit their activities to the military bases on Okinawa and their off-base housing and contracted business if you have monthly bills to pay with local businesses until further notice. The statement below is from www.okinawa.msmc.mil. There are also articles about this situation in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Japan Times & Japan Update. UPDATE: From Yahoo! News
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa (February 22, 2008) – Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, commanding general of III MEF and also the Okinawa Area Coordinator, ordered that all Status of Forces Agreement personnel, which includes service members, Department of Defense civilians, DoD invited contractors, and their respective family members, observe a “period of reflection” that began Wednesday morning.
During this period of reflection, which is for an indefinite period of time, SOFA-status personnel are limited to their place of duty or employment, worship, education, medical or dental treatment, or off-base residence. There is no restriction to regularly scheduled activities and facilities aboard any U.S. base or installation.
This order comes on the heels of a two-day Marine Corps Ethics and Leadership stand down conducted Feb. 14 and 15, which was held so that all Marines could reflect on individual roles and responsibilities as Americans and service members serving in Japan. However, due to alleged off-base misconduct by service members over the President’s Day holiday weekend, Zilmer ordered the period of reflection.
“I fully realize and appreciate the overwhelming majority of service members, family members and DoD civilian employees here in Japan who demonstrate only the highest levels of personal and moral conduct,” Zilmer said. “However, these recent incidents possess the potential to undermine the goodwill we have fostered with the Japanese people over decades of cooperative engagement.”
Because the order was given by Zilmer acting in his role as Okinawa Area Coordinator, the order applies to all the branches of the U.S. military and all SOFA-status personnel on Okinawa. Zilmer, who is the senior U.S. military commander on Okinawa, serves as Okinawa Area Coordinator in order to coordinate matters of joint service interest peculiar to the Okinawa area. In that capacity, he serves as a representative of the Commander of U.S. Forces Japan.
During the period of reflection, SOFA personnel are authorized to transit between U.S. military installations or their off-base residence using privately owned vehicles, military supported transportation, or commercial taxis.
Exceptions to the order can be made on a case-by-case basis with the approval of O6-level commander for pre-existing or pre-registered obligations or special events.
This period of reflection will allow commanders and all SOFA-status personnel an opportunity to further review procedures and orders that govern the discipline and conduct of all U.S. service members serving in Okinawa. Zilmer said the period of reflection, “will allow me and all our senior leaders to review the orders, procedures and regulations that govern our conduct and behavior living abroad.”
In addition, today has been designated as a “Day of Reflection” by Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, and all U.S. military installations and units in Japan will participate in a unit commander led Day of Reflection emphasizing professionalism and core military values.
“Every service member is expected to take personal responsibility for his or her off-duty conduct, and we will continue to be unwavering in our commitment to maintain exemplary high standards of professionalism,” Wright said.