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Town Hall meeting answers questions, informs base members

By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (Sept. 29, 2000) -- More than 100 people attended Tuesday night's Town Hall Meeting at the Tohoku Enlisted Club.

The Town Hall Meeting is a base-wide forum allowing base residents to speak directly with base leaders about issues affecting them and their families. Tuesday's meeting was hosted by Brig. Gen. Chip Utterback, Misawa Air Base and 35th Fighter Wing commander. Senior leaders from the 35th Support Group, as well as representatives from base schools, the Army Air Force Exchange Service and the Defense Commissary Agency were available to answer questions and provide information.

The open-forum gathering kicked off shortly after 6:30 p.m. with an introduction by Utterback, who formally welcomed attendees and radio listeners to the event. Other senior leaders followed, highlighting topics they felt were of significance to members.

Notable was a briefing by Capt. Allan Conkey 35th Security Forces concerning the recent changes in the base's Japanese Compulsory Insurance policies. Members were told they must now keep the JCI on their vehicles current at all times.

From the Naval Air Facility, attendees learned NAF has recently upgraded its movie channel, cable channel 24. Capt. Richard High, NAF Misawa commander, explained the channel now shows movies 24 hours a day. Concerns over R rated movies playing at times when children could watch were also addressed. Movies carrying the R rating will now only play between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Misawa AAFES General Manager George Bass addressed the recent increase in gasoline prices.

Bass explained AAFES purchases gasoline from the U.S. Department of Defense Fuel Depot. He told attendees the price increase in AAFES gasoline is due to a price increase for AAFES. AAFES will now sell gasoline at $1.62 a gallon, though AAFES gas stations still provide the lowest priced gasoline in the area. To soften the blow to consumers, AAFES has made coupons available which may reduce the price of gasoline to as low as $1.37 a gallon.

Bass also spoke of developments in the food court area at the Base Exchange. Changes include the addition of a Charlie's Steakery sandwich shop, the addition of an A&W Root Beer outlet to replace Frank's Franks, and the consolidation or renovation of other AAFES contracted concessions in the Food Court. Additional upgrades include a children's playground in the glass-enclosed area between the food court and the Commissary. Exchange customers can expect to see changes sometime next year.

When base senior leaders and agency representatives had concluded their briefings, the floor was opened to meeting attendees. Under the coordination of radio personalities and technicians from the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, the agency responsible for broadcasting the meeting on radio AM 1575, meeting attendees were able to voice their concerns and comments directly to base leaders.

Questions addressed the time limits on users of AAFES contracted dial-up Internet access, the availability of event tickets to day-shift workers, base playground safety and modernization, sanitation practices in base food facilities, the location of U.S. Post Office mailboxes, the rules concerning E-1s through E-4s living off base, and construction in the 800 housing area.

Other topics included base cable contracts, air-conditioning, the base skate park, and kennel services for the pets of service members.

After nearly two hours of discussion, the meeting was closed. Meeting attendees unsatisfied with answers from base officials were promised follow-up information, and those members who had submitted questions during the event by either e-mail or telephone were promised answers as well. Many questions will be answered in upcoming issues of the Northern Light.

Base members unable to attend the meeting have several options available to get their concerns addressed by base leadership.

While the chain-of-command should always be the first tool used by military members, at Misawa Air Base there is also the commander's call in radio show.

The one-hour radio show airs the last Friday of each month, from 8 to 9 a.m. on AM 1575. Base members may also find answers by addressing their questions to the Commander's Action Line, at 226-3700.