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U.S. Army Eases Alcohol, Travel Restrictions
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Amid growing complaints of cabin fever, the U.S. Army on Wednesday eased restrictions on off-base passes and alcohol for soldiers stationed in Hungary as backup for the NATO-led Bosnian peace force. Day-passes for the 3,500 troops stationed in southern Hungary were introduced last December, but the soldiers could not leave Taszar and Kaposvar, the towns where they are based. Alcohol consumption was banned. On Wednesday, however, the drinking ban was lifted for off-duty troops stationed in Hungary, though it remains in effect for U.S. troops in Bosnia.

The troops stationed in Hungary will be able to immediately take leaves of up to three days to the capital Budapest and soon to Lake Balaton, Hungary’s premier resort area. Service members and civilian employees who have been deployed in Hungary or other countries neighboring former Yugoslavia for 30 days or more are eligible.

“We want them to completely relax so that when they return to their bases they can focus again on their hard work,” U.S. Army Col. John Richard, deputy chief of staff of personnel, told reporters. Those on leave will travel in groups of 40-50 with a senior non-commissioned officer. While at their destination, they will be required to accompanied by at least one colleague.

“This is nothing extraordinary: This is for their own personal safety, and this restriction applies wherever they are in the world,” said another spokesman, Lt. Col. Ron Williams. Except for transportation to and from the base, the soldiers will have to pay for everything, including their hotels.

Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military’s unofficial newspaper, has published dozens of letters recently from soldiers protesting pass and alcohol restrictions. But Richard denied that the changes came as a result of complaints. Policies on alcohol and base-leave vary according to the countries where the troops are posted. For example, most U.S. troops in Croatia are under foreign commands and thus have been allowed to drink alcohol.

Additional resources
The U.S. Army Home Page
The U.S. Army in Bosnia

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