U.S. Navy officials banned alcohol consumption and restricted off-base trips for sailors in Okinawa after a drunk driving incident occurred Saturday. U.S. Naval Forces Japan released a statement Sunday.
Petty Officer Aimee Mejia, 21, was traveling the wrong way on a highway Saturday evening when she struck two cars in a head-on collision. Two people were injured. Mejia confessed to driving under the influence after police discovered her blood alcohol content was nearly six times the legal limit.
The new restrictions affect all 18,600 of the sailors stationed in Okinawa. The country’s relationship with the American personnel has been strained by several crimes committed against Japanese citizens. Earlier this month Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters he felt “strong anger” after a US Air Base contractor admitted to dumping a woman’s body.
The news release by Navy officials listed several restrictions besides the alcohol ban:
Additionally, all off-base liberty will be curtailed. Sailors who live off base will be permitted to travel to and from work and engage in official actions such as childcare drop-off and pickup, trips to the grocery store, gas stations or the gym. The liberty curtailment will remain in effect until face-to-face training has been conducted by unit commanding officers, executive officers and command master chiefs with all personnel.
The alcohol ban will not be lifted until the top-ranking Navy officials are “comfortable” that Sailors have realized the effect of their actions on America’s relationships with other countries.
“For decades, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the people of Japan,” Rear Admiral Matthew Carter said. “It is imperative that each Sailor understand how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan Alliance as a whole.”
Carter, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan, is joined by Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the Commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, in enforcing the new restrictions.
“The overwhelming majority of our sailors are doing an outstanding job every single day, but that same majority—at every paygrade--is also responsible for providing leadership on all levels,” Aucoin said.