Airman who went AWOL with issued sidearm arrested by Japanese police; sent to US for mental treatment

Air traffic controllers from the 18th Operations Support Squadron visually scan the Kadena flightline for safety risks in the ATC tower at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Dec. 18, 2018. (Photo by Nacho Anazawa)

A US Airman in Okinawa created an international incident last month after he went AWOL and ran rogue through Japan while armed with an issued sidearm.

The 18th Wing Security Forces claimed the Airman, whose duties include “checking out weapons,” failed to report for duty and left with a loaded M9 Berreta pistol.

The Airman only had one magazine -which was loaded with fifteen rounds of ammunition- on him at the time of his capture but was nonetheless a serious threat in a country with some of the world’s strictest gun laws.

The Stars and Stripes reported that Kadena Air Base officials assigned to the 18th Wing notified Japanese public security officials, adding that the Airman was mentally ill and needed treatment.

To put into context, most Japanese police are only armed with 5-round .38 caliber revolvers, with the newest models last issued in the 1990s.

According to the Okinawa Times, the Airman was unable to be treated in Japan for his illness and was subsequently sent home.

Okinawa has traditionally had a rough relationship with US forces stationed on the island, and the most recent incident highlighted several fears from local officials, with one complaining of “military personnel floating around private residential areas with firearms.”

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