YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A Friday night out partying ended with an hours-long wait at the gate for hundreds of airmen, who were subjected to a drug test as they re-entered the base.
In a procedure that has earned unofficial nicknames such as “Operation Golden Flow” and “The Lemonade Party,” Yokota Air Base leaders drug-tested 273 active-duty servicemembers as they came home from their night on the town.
“The gate sweep for drug testing was performed in accordance with the commander’s intent to maintain the health and wellness of a ready force as well as a drug-free Air Force community,” 374th Airlift Wing spokesman 1st Lt. Jacob Bailey said in an email.
The mass drug testing was unrelated to past positive drug tests or evidence of drug use by Yokota-based personnel; it’s a measure that’s used periodically to help assess the military fitness and readiness of a command by identifying drug users, he said.
“Gate sweeps are a measure that, while not often seen used, can be implemented in order to achieve drug-reduction objectives and ensure force readiness,” he said, citing Air Force rules that allow for such operations as well as regular random drug testing.
One of those tested, Tech. Sgt. Samuel Aldrich, 28, of Boise, Idaho, said he waited two hours before he could finally crawl into his bed. Those at the back of the long line likely had to wait for more than three hours, he said, and many of those in line had been out drinking and didn’t take kindly to the long wait.
“It was getting pretty hectic,” he said. “There were people making threats and getting in each other’s faces.”
Civilians were allowed to enter the base without submitting to a drug test, but active-duty servicemembers had to turn in their ID cards, Aldrich said.
At first officials drove the revelers — six at a time — in a van to the Yujo Community Center, but eventually the entire group marched there on foot and lined up to provide urine samples, he said.
“It seemed like it was really poorly executed,” Aldrich said.
Results of the testing, which was limited to Yokota, aren’t available yet since samples are still being analyzed, Bailey said.