YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE — In an effort to bolster its substance abuse prevention measures, the Navy is sending its top experts to an overseas summit for the first time.

Monday at Yokosuka, experts from the Navy Personnel Command’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Branch will host some 200 Navy leaders from the region.

The summit, officials said, is intended to build on the gains the Navy says it’s made in recent years toward reducing alcohol and substance abuse among the ranks.

Adm. Vern Clark, the Chief of Naval Operations, has set a goal of reducing substance abuse-related incidents by 50 percent, Navy officials said.

“The Navy has always been proactive on the issue,” said Command Master Chief Mike Driscoll of Commander, Naval Forces Japan. “In the ’80s, the Navy was the first to start urinalysis testing and proactive training and education of its sailors.”

“Of course, there is also the enforcement side,” he said, referring to the Navy’s zero-tolerance policy that reads, in part, “all personnel found guilty of a single incident of drug use must be processed for administrative separation.”

Driscoll contended that although punishment for substance abuse-related incidents is tough, it never has prevented a sailor from coming to him with a problem.

“In 30 years-plus, I’ve seen sailors come in for help without fear of retribution,” he said.

Beginning Monday, hundreds of commanders, enlisted leaders and counselors will begin a three-day conference at Yokosuka.

Similar events have been hosted at U.S. Navy bases and in Hawaii, but this is the first one to be held overseas, officials said.

Presentations will be made by a range of officials, including drug screening lab technicians, legal advisers, criminal investigators and substance abuse counselors.

Scheduled speakers include 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Robert F. Willard; Rear Adm. Robert Chaplin, CNFJ commander; and Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention head Bill Flannery.

CNFJ is covering expenses for participants to come from as far as South Korea, Guam, Diego Garcia and Singapore, said Chief Petty Officer Red Mateo of CNFJ, who is helping to coordinate the summit.

“An important part of this is that they are coming out here to listen to the fleet’s concerns and get their ideas,” Mateo said.

The issue, Navy leaders say, is one of readiness.

“If we have one sailor who has an alcohol-related incident or has a positive urinalysis, we have an issue. It becomes a readiness issue,” Driscoll said.

Navy goals: fewer deaths, more tests

The Chief of Naval Operations’ goal is to reduce alcohol-related fatalities by 50 percent from fiscal 2002 to fiscal 2003, said Bill Flannery, head of the Navy Personnel Command’s Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Branch.

In 2002, there were 32 alcohol-related deaths Navy wide. So far in 2003, there have been 13. The fiscal year ends in September.

A second goal, this one mandated by the Chief of Naval Personnel, is to reduce by 25 percent the number of sailors testing positive for drugs, while simultaneously increasing the number of drug screenings, he said.

In 2002, there were approximately 6,000 positive tests. So far in FY03, there have been approximately 3,400.

In the first 8 months of 2002, 602,000 drug tests were performed. In the first 8 months of 2003, there were 690,000 tests performed.

— Stars and Stripes

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