The base, located in Japan's southern Ryukyu Island chain, is "one of the most important Pacific bases," according to the US military's Stars & Stripes news outlet. Okinawa is seen as a vital base of operations from which the US can counter perceived regional threats like China and North Korea.
About 3,000 Marines are stationed at Air Station Futenma, although there are 31 other US military bases on the island that occupy one quarter of its area and together host some 47,000 American troops.
Local frustrations with the US' presence are consistently apparent, marked by protests and public opinion. In 2010, a survey of Okinawans by Mainichi Shimbun and Ryūkyū Shimpō determined that 71 percent of residents found the Americans unnecessary. Approximately 41 percent of those polled said that the US bases should be taken off the island.
In December 2017, a window of a CH-53E large transport helicopter fell from the air and landed on the playground of an elementary school just across from the Futenma base. Locals near Futenma and across the island have complained about more falling objects this year as well, Sputnik reported, a cause of consternation for Japanese officials.
A US defense official said that the firing of Coppess had nothing to do with the recurring accidents, according to the Japan Times. However, the Marines' press release did not mention a cause for the loss of confidence in the commander.
Coppess had only been heading the base since June 4, 2017, and will now be replaced by Col. David Steele.