Navy: No second chances for drug users, alcohol abusers
NAPLES, Italy — The Navy’s message on drug use and alcohol abuse is clear: no second chances.
With the service drawing down its forces, and no worries over meeting retention and recruiting goals, the Navy can afford to be picky about the quality of sailors it keeps around, officials said.
They’re weeding out the “fungus” that threatens to infect the service’s “garden of beautiful flowers,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tony Kapuschansky, officer-in-charge of the Norfolk, Va.-based Center for Personal Development Detachment, Drug and Alcohol Program Management Activity.
Commanding officers not only are giving the boot to those who violate anti-drug use and alcohol abuse polices, but they’re doing so in the quickest and cheapest way possible — through the administrative separation process, Kapuschansky said.
That means commanding officers have the discretion to forego lengthier and costlier courts-martial, in order to expedite a sailor’s removal.
“Where’s the justice in that?” Kapuschansky said. “The justice is: how would you like to stand watch with someone who was high?”
Sailors seem to be aware that they stand to lose so much — a guaranteed income, housing allowance, and health care benefits — if they violate policies, Kapuschansky said.
Navy officials report a steady decrease in the number of sailors testing positive for drugs, even as the number of tests has risen. In fiscal 2001, of the 799,537 samples taken, 6,251 yielded positive results. In the first seven months of fiscal 2005, nearly 1.4 million samples yielded 3,841 positive results.
Marijuana is the most popular abused drug, accounting for 55 percent of the positive hits, followed by cocaine at 21 percent, methamphetamine at 19 percent, Ecstasy at 3 percent and other drugs at 2 percent.
Youth is no excuse for violating the rules, Kapuschansky said. If an 18- or 19-year-old sailor, for example, can be trusted to man multi-million dollar weapon systems, he or she can be trusted to follow drug and alcohol policies.
Do drugs, even once, and you’re out, he said.
Alcohol is a legal substance, but sailors are expected to drink responsibly and never drive after drinking, he said at this week’s Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention summit at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy. NADAP officials are taking the Navy message to the fleet in a series of summits held globally.
The policy itself isn’t new, just officials’ repetition of the message, said Tim Suich, Navy Personnel Command’s legal representative.
The target population of possible drug users in the Navy has been defined as males who are E-3 and below, have 2½ years of service or less, are 19 to 22 years of age, with an average of 14 to 24 months onboard their first duty station, and are nonwarfare qualified, according to Navy documents.
But they aren’t the only violators, and even senior sailors should beware, Suich warned. There is no such thing as “sanctuary” for those with 18 to 20 years of service behind them, and the days of commanders turning a blind eye or cutting a break to “lifers” are over, he said.
The warning sits just fine with Petty Officer 1st Class Herb Scott, the drug-and-alcohol prevention representative for his Naples unit of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, or NCTAMS.
“When I first came in, there seemed to be a lot of dead weight,” said the sailor with 12 years in. “Now, they’re not just letting anyone in and that’s a good thing. Now we have people who take care of their responsibilities, do their jobs … and others don’t have to pick up their slack.”