AAFES revamps daiko service, keeps service members safe
Responsible drinking is a safety topic discussed by service members on a daily basis. These discussions reaffirm service members’ commitment to keeping high moral values and being outstanding citizens. But on a small island, in a foreign country with a reduced legal drinking age, this safety topic resonates much louder than it would within the United States. Fortunately for service members serving in Okinawa, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service has stepped in with the help of local taxi services to ensure their service men and women make it home safely every night.
The AAFES-sponsored “daiko” service provides service members with safe and now easy means of returning home after a night of fun and entertainment.
“There is no excuse for drinking and driving, or driving while fatigued,” said Sgt. Maj. Robert K. Williamson, the sergeant major of Marine Corps Installations Pacific and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedly D. Butler. “At best, one would jeopardize their career. At worst, there is the threat of losing one’s life, or risking the lives of those around them.”
Daiko, which roughly translates to “Do something for someone” in Japanese, will not only dispatch a taxi to pick up a responsible service member, but they will also send a second driver to safely drive the customer’s vehicle back to their residence or final destination. According to a Camp Foster daiko representative, this service adds roughly 40 percent to the cab fare, which pales in comparison to the hefty fines for a DUI conviction and is even much cheaper than the round-trip required when recovering a vehicle from the previous night’s excursion. This additional charge also covers insurance for the customer’s vehicle, in the event it becomes damaged or involved in a traffic mishap.
According to the Japanese Police Liaison Office with the Camp Foster Provost Marshall’s Office, MCB Camp Butler, being pulled over with a blood alcohol level of 0.04 to 0.05, which is above the legal limit of 0.03 in Okinawa, often results in fines in excess of $4,100 (500,000 yen). This fine doubles if the BAC is over 0.05 and those figures do not include additional fees for towing, impounding, court costs, and any personal or property damage.
The service has been around for 9 years, said Naoko Teruya, the Okinawa services business manager for AAFES. Many service members have had issues with using the service because of language barriers or simply not knowing how to contact daiko. AAFES is now reworking the program with a three-step solution to spread awareness and allow service members easy access in their time of need.
The first step was to revise daiko’s central dispatch recorded message. The previous recording potentially caused miscommunication as to the location and destination of the customer. In the past, this was often avoided by friendly employees of local establishments acting on behalf of the customer. Now, customers can feel confident in independently initiating the service with a much clearer message system to select the military installation closest to a customer’s current location.
The second step is the development a map depicting daiko dispatch zones. This map will identify key locations and allow customers to contact the appropriate daiko service. It is slated for publication in Marine Corps Community Services, Okinawa magazines, and to be posted via official unit social media sites to allow service members electronic access on their mobile devices. Also, MMCS is printing wallet-sized contact cards for dissemination by tenant units and during newcomer orientation briefs. The new maps and cards are to simplify contacting the right service for the right location. The new cards also identify which services possess permits to operate on base. The base-wide distribution of the cards began July 20, while the map is still in final development stages.
“It is important that the service member knows exactly where they are and what’s the nearest military base and daiko provider,” said Teruya. “The distribution of the new cards and maps makes it easier for the service member to properly use the service.”
The final step is for AAFES to secure new contracts with additional taxi and daiko services to allow quicker and more convenient service, improving the availability in more remote areas. This final step is an on-going effort for AAFES.
Thanks to AAFES, and MCCS, this overhaul of the daiko service will allow service members to safely engage in all that the Okinawa night-life has to offer without the fear of not being able to find a safe ride home.
“Okinawa is full of exciting activities and amazing people, and I encourage all Marines, service members, civilians and families to take advantage of this unique opportunity to experience off-base culture,” said Williamson. “However, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a plan in place, be safe and be responsible, as we are all guests among the hospitable residents of Okinawa.”
For more information about daiko services on Okinawa, service members can call 637-5900 via the Defense Switch Network, or dial 0120-23-5477 from a local cellphone.