USFJ Commander visits Kadena, discusses SOFA concerns
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Lt. Gen. John Dolan, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, visited here June 27 and 28.
The main focus of his visit was to express the importance of the Status of Forces Agreement, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the governments of the United States of America and Japan, while also laying out what they clearly state and how it affects members of the U.S. Forces in Japan.
“These are unprecedented times here on Okinawa and in Japan,” Dolan said, referring to the recent incidents of U.S. personnel misbehavior. “What happened was truly awful and the effects are being felt Japan-wide, so it’s vital to ensure everyone – the military members, dependents, civilians and contractors – are aware of how the SOFA affects them specifically.”
While SOFA status has been granted to members of the U.S. armed forces, that does not mean there are no rules or consequences for unprofessional or criminal actions.
“The SOFA affords privileges that come with important responsibilities,” continued Dolan. “It’s vital for everyone to be familiar with their rights and responsibilities under the SOFA. You are required to follow the laws of Japan.”
Under the SOFA, members of the U.S. armed forces, the civilian component and their dependents are subject to the laws and regulations of Japan.
“Basically, with SOFA status, if you commit a crime in Japan, you can be prosecuted by Japanese authorities,” Dolan said. “You are also subject to the entire range of administrative and disciplinary measures available under U.S. law and regulations.”
According to the SOFA, the Government of Japan has jurisdiction over those who commit offenses within the territory of Japan and they are punishable by the laws of Japan. It’s the duty of the members of the U.S. armed forces, the civilian component and their dependents to respect the laws of Japan and understand that all acts of misconduct are unacceptable.
“One careless act of indiscipline by any U.S. citizen will have strategic implications for the security of our Nation and its Alliance with Japan,” said Chief Master Sgt. Terrence Greene, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force command chief master sergeant. “Misconduct while stationed in or visiting Japan has serious implications for our relationships with our Japanese hosts, and can cause irreparable damage to the Alliance.”
For members violating the UCMJ but not Japanese law, the U.S. military will have jurisdiction over that individual.
Individuals accused of a crime who are in U.S. military custody, will remain there until charged by the government of Japan. However, both the United States and Japan will assist each other in investigations of crimes and collection of evidence.
In effect, the SOFA enables the United States forces to fulfill its treaty obligations to defend Japan, and maintain peace and stability in the region.
“Your SOFA status includes the responsibility to serve as ambassadors of the U.S. to Japan,” said Dolan. “Your behavior, good and bad, reflects on you, your family, the U.S. military, and the United States of America.
“We all have a responsibility to represent our Nation in a positive way, and I expect you to fully understand your obligations as a member of our team,” stated Dolan.
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