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Misawa Air Base institutes new community standards

By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (Feb. 16, 2001) -- Misawa Air Base released the revised Misawa Air Base Community Standards, January 12. The standard defines some of the behavior expected of Misawa Air Base residents and some of the behavior that is not.

"We have included some new things in the policy," said Col. Vic Vaccaro, 35th Support Group, commander, "but most of the things have just been updated, improved or expanded to eliminate any confusion in the standard."

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According to Vaccaro, some of the major changes in 35th Fighter Wing Instruction 36-2901, or the Misawa Air Base Community Standards include policy changes for personal weapons, alcohol and tobacco, earring wear and recreational safety issues such as scooter use or swimming.

For weapons owners there two significant changes in Misawa Air Base policy.

According to Vaccaro, both pellet and BB guns are strictly forbidden on Misawa Air Base.

"We have some individuals on base come pretty close to getting severely injured with a pellet gun," said Vaccaro. "We saw this as a problem area and felt we needed to introduce this into the community standards."

The prohibition is new to the base standard. Additional policy involves the number of weapons residents are allowed to keep while in Japan.

"Military housing residents may store no more than three weapons in base housing or in the Security Force's armory," said Lt. Col. Arthur Anderson, 35th Support Group, deputy commander. "Those in the dorms or living off base may keep up to three in the armory."

According to Anderson, the types of weapons that may be stored are actually limited by the types of weapon allowed into the Japan when members change station to Misawa.

For tobacco users at Misawa Air Base, there have been changes concerning both the purchase and use of tobacco products.

One major change involves tobacco use by local teens.

"Minors will no longer be able to purchase or use tobacco products," said Anderson. "We have always had a policy where you can't buy tobacco products if you are under 18. The issue now is that it is going to be a violation of community standards if you are using them as well."

"Some kids had gotten around the old rules by having their parents or a friend who is 18 or older buy for them," said Anderson. "The thing is they are not going to be able to use it now. "

For those of age, changes in the tobacco policy at Misawa include where members may use tobacco.

"We already know that you cannot smoke in base facilities, but the new standard says smoking is banned within 50 feet of all facilities on base...that change is going to drive people to change their habits," said Anderson.

Air Force instructions generally allow commanders some leeway in their interpretation. While a commander may not choose to disregard any Air Force instruction, a commander may choose to reinforce, update or supplement an existing Air Force instruction with their own policy.

One example involves the wear of earrings by male members at Misawa Air Base.

"We currently have a policy about prohibiting earring wear [by males] on base," said Anderson. "The new policy actually codifies in the community standard that earring wear for males will be prohibited off base as well."

While the new policy makes no mention of tongue or body piercings, Anderson points out that when the base instruction does not specifically cover an issue, members are to refer to the Air Force level instruction, AFI 36-2903, the standards of appearance instruction.

The new scooter craze has not gone unnoticed in base policy. Use of the tiny aluminum two-wheeled devices has been added to the types of equipment requiring users to wear safety gear.

At the same time scooters have been added to the list of recreational equipment requiring wear of safety gear, the amount of safety gear required has actually been reduced. Helmets are now required for skateboarders, scooter riders, roller skaters and inline skaters; safety equipment such as knee and elbow pads is strongly recommended, but not required.

During summer months, members have been prohibited from swimming in the Pacific Ocean between Hachinohe and the north-east tip of the Shimokita Peninsula. The new community standard makes an exception to this rule.

Base residents and other SOFA status members may now swim at the Misawa Veedol Beach, south on Route 338, adjacent to the Misawa Fishing port. Swimming activities are allowed here only when a lifeguard is present.

The newly updated base policy covers many areas. Base residents who are concerned about how the policy affects them should review changes to the policy.

"It is an individual responsibility of each individual to know what is in the community standard, to read them and understand them" noted Vaccaro. "If you go to the Misawa Web page, you can link right into those standards. We also have a quick-reference pamphlet we hand out to newcomers."

"We want to be sure to keep the community safe and free from hazard," said Vaccaro, regarding the significance of the new standard. "I encourage everyone in the community to pick up a copy of the standards and read them. I think the community wants a little structured guidance on what is expected of them. Once you put it down in writing, people understand it better and this helps make our community a better place to live."

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