"Give Me Liberty, Or..."
I didn't want to disturb the peace and serenity of the Christmas season by posting this too close to the 25th, but this article from Navy Times really got my blood boiling. Excerpts:
So you’ve got liberty in Japan? First, fill out this form. Then, get your chief’s OK. And if you want to drink, don’t forget your liberty buddy. And remember to phone in each day, even on your weekend off.The article contains a copy of a Seventh Fleet "Individual Liberty Plan" form; the Kitty Hawk's local "Liberty Mitigation Plan" form can be found here.
Those are just some of the rules for sailors stationed in Japan aboard the carrier Kitty Hawk, at least until the ship hands over its berth next summer to the George Washington before its eventual decommissioning.
Kitty Hawk sailors are living with some of the strictest liberty rules in the Navy, even when their ship is at its home port in Yokosuka with other forward-deployed Naval Forces commands.
Every Kitty Hawk sailor E-6 and below, and anyone planning to drink off base, must have an authorized liberty buddy and a detailed individual liberty plan that requires approval from his superior. Any change to that plan must be reported and approved by the first khaki in the command chain. The liberty restrictions — often tightened after a spate of off-duty and alcohol-related incidents involving sailors — don’t always end there, according to sailors and fleet spokeswomen.
Several incidents occurred the week after Kitty Hawk returned from deployment Nov. 27. In response, the command tightened the policy by requiring departmental chiefs or officers to reach by phone or physically see each of their sailors E-6 and below every evening — even on weekends and regardless of marital status — to make sure they were following approved liberty plans.
This seems to be the natural result of the Navy's "Cover Your Ass" policy with respect to liberty incidents. I guess I can understand the need for a "liberty buddy" at overseas ports, and that it's probably a good idea to get a signed statement from Sailors that, yes, they understand that they're subject to non-judicial punishment if they get stupid on the beach, but this is taking "intrusive leadership" too far, IMHO. I mean, c'mon, this is the Kitty Hawk's home port! At some point the constant treating Sailors as children (including senior Petty Officers) will result in some well-deserved backlash in the form of significantly reduced retention. (And let's face it -- Chiefs and officers can get just as dumb on liberty as blueshirts can.)
Jim at FEWL.NET offers a great perspective from a local Sailor on the restrictions here and here, and Skippy-San offers his own perspective here, pointing out that this policy essentially tells Sailors that they have no choice but to lie to the command in response to stupid policies. The response I liked best reportedly came from a retired Marine O-6 in an E-mail that's been making the rounds in military circles:
If I was the CNO, and I read this, I would immediately pick up the phone and call the CO of the Kitty Hawk, and ask if the story was true. If it was, I would relieve the CO over the phone, and ask for the XO. I would ask the XO if he agreed with this disgraceful policy. If he said yes, I would relieve him too.
Then I'd call the Battle Group Commander, the CO of the base, and every other person in the chain of command who should have stood up and ended these policies. And if they gave any bullshit excuses, I'd relieve them too.
Then I'd fly to Japan and personally apologize to the Sailors on the Kitty Hawk that I allowed such assholes in positions of trust. And that it would never happen again.
This type of ass-covering leadership is despicable. It has no place in the Navy, or any other service. It is a cancer that eats away at the morale of our most precious asset--our people--and the trust that is essential to a warfighting organization.
If the Navy leadership in Japan thinks their primary duty in life is to prevent liberty incidents, bust them all to petty officer and have them stand shore patrol. They can then check all the ^%$$#$ liberty chits they want.