SOFA Drivers License Requirements Vary Between Japan Bases

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    U.S. Forces Japan lays out the bare bones each base must follow and leaves to individual commanders how those requirements are implemented. That means the requirements differ from base to base — from a full day in a local driving-conditions course and a road test to just a short video and a written exam.

    Col. James Brophy, USFJ provost marshal, said USFJ doesn’t want to impede the separate instructions for driving that each branch of the military maintains. “We don’t like to … take authority away from them,” he said.

    Instead, USFJ requires only the minimum instructions the SOFA requires, including that the applicant have a valid stateside or international driver’s license, take a local safety course and score at least 70 percent on a written exam.

    The rest depends on the base.

    The policies differ even when the bases are separated by mere miles and servicemembers drive on the same roads.

    Take Okinawa, for example, where the Marine Corps system consists of a short video on local driving conditions shown after a two-part written exam. The entire process takes barely an hour at Camp Foster.

    Down the road at Kadena Air Base, prospective drivers go through a 90-minute course about driving on the island, complete with PowerPoint presentations and cut-outs of international road signs used in Japan.

    But some bases seem to be trending toward ratcheting up requirements for getting a license.

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