Saturday, January 28, 2006

Let me reiterate….

When I was on ship, I used to always joke around about the fact that like clockwork, once a week, I would smile to myself and thank the spirits that I had decided to get out of the Marines. Granted, our urban missions from ship were demanding and stressful, but that’s not the reason I really wanted to get out. It seemed like, on a monthly basis, the things that made being in the military “fun” were degraded. A huge part of this were curfews.

Had I stayed in, I had a limited amount of options of places to go, and the places I would have deployed to would have either sucked or been made to suck by the command. I certainly would have done at least 6 months or more in Iraq, and had I deployed to Okinawa or Korea, I would have had curfews slapped on me, which would have limited the amount of time I could hang out with my friends, and worse, restricted my freedom to do stuff I wanted to do. When I was in Sasebo and we had a 1am curfew, the only thing that did was make people start drinking earlier in the day and drinking a lot more. We were walking around town at 2pm and saw shitfaced service members everywhere. At least at night, there aren’t kids around. Curfews also cast a pall over everything, because people feel like their “free time” is being controlled and dictated by people who they don’t know/don’t have control over. Some retard I don’t even know and have never seen pisses on a police car or something, and I have to be in bed by midnight. Cute.

While I am not in the military now, I am still a SOFA status person. SOFA stands for Status Of Forces Agreement, and it’s the agreement between the US Government and the host nation on dealing with people who are in the host nation working for the US Government. Military personnel/people working for the military do not have work visas or whatever like other expats; our passports are stamped with something else, we have certain ID cards, etc etc..

For a more complete definition of SOFA, click here.

So here’s a funny story.

Yokosuka Navy base here on the main island of Japan has had a string of incidents recently, the worst of which was a couple weeks ago when a woman was robbed and died after taking a shot to the abdomen by a sailor. The next week, another drunken sailor tried to break into a local elementary school. While the Japanese media is definitely anti-US-Forces-in-Japan, it doesn’t take a whole lot of word-smithing to make these incidents strike fear into the hearts of the locals. How would you like it if your neighborhood were full of a bunch of drunken 18-25 year olds who were in decent physical condition, considerably bigger than the average local, and had a recent history of rape, bare-handed murder, robbery, breaking and entering, theft, etc etc.. Naturally, the locals reacted, so the commander imposed a midnight curfew for ALL SOFA status personnel living on Atsugi and Yokosuka. That’s all military, all contractors, all federal workers, and all dependents.

I hear stuff like this and it really worries me. I mean, if it can happen to them, it can happen to me, right? Fortunately, most of the people around here are pretty geeky and don’t go on long deployments ending in drunken debauchery, so I don’t have to worry that much. Still, if the #1 commander in Japan deemed that a curfew was necessary, it would really suck to have to blatantly violate it, because I would.


A group of 10 contractors were understandably pissed off about this – they’re not in the military, but they’re being told what to do by military folks because of stupid shit that military folks did. If a contractor or civilian employee goes and does something stupid, it’s an easy solution – they get fired. If I got a DUI out in town, I’d be done. It’s a different animal than the military, and shouldn’t be handled in the same way. Anyway, the group of 10 contractors’ solution was: SUE THE GOVERNMENT! Here’s how (and it’s pretty sneaky):

We work 40 hour weeks, and anything more than that must be compensated, per our contracts. For instance, if I travel to a conference in the US, I’m compensated for the travel time. Also, if I have an official mandatory function outside work, I get compensated for it. Being compensated for overtime requires paperwork, and it’s a pain in the ass, so it is highly discouraged, to the point of being prohibited.

In the military, however, there are no regular duty hours. You’re always “on duty,” and if you’re not working, you’re on “liberty.”

The contractors’ argument was this: If we are subject to your orders after our regular work day, you owe us for overtime, and now we’re going to sue you for compensation.

The military’s reaction: “Uuuh OK, curfew is for military personnel only.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah SNAP!

Imagine that. 10 civilians got together and made a difference. I’m glad that precedence was set, because if a similar curfew were to befall this place, no one would do a damn thing.

So nothing to fear – Adventures will continue unabated.

Time to run – I need to buy some clothes; more later.


Blogger Bonita said...

fucking brilliant

6:40 AM  
Blogger brando said...

That's great Paul. I know that admin fools would burn you up, when they'd really stress that they had some power. I know how much you loved, as a college grad that's perfectly capable of balancing your affairs, to have to line up and show that your check book was balanced.

The good thing about Iraq (for our command at least) was that the bullshit meter dropped signifigantly while we were in country. We did have to remain reasonably shaven though. And most of the rules had good solid reasoning behind it.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude, that's sweeet


10:44 AM  
Anonymous eric said...

I had heard about those incidents - is midnight early enough for them?

5:04 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

the time is really irrelevant because people will find some way of working within the "rules" to accomplish whatever it is they want to do. the only 100% way to keep the locals "safe" would be to lock the gates and prevent anyone from leaving. this isnt viable for a number of reasons -- there are people who live off base, people with a japanese spouse, people who have to take care of things off base, etc, so even if you locked down the base, people would be able to figure out a way around it.

my arguments are pretty common-sensey; if you take 30,000 people anywhere, regardless of where they're from, there's going to be a trouble making element in there somewhere. also, Japanese people commit crimes too.. but try using those arguments with people who have had family members killed/raped/etc by US service members.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Jinxy said...

That's pretty fucking smart.

Lot smarder than I would have thunk.

10:13 PM  
Blogger brando said...

I looked up those SOFA people. They are SOFA KING WHEAT HEARTED.

Am I the first person to say that? I'm sure I am. Being clever is so great.

11:57 AM  

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