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RAF LAKENHEATH, England — A six-month drug investigation of dozens of airmen has yielded two courts-martial so far, Air Force officials said.

The Office of Special Investigations in Lakenheath continues to look into 25 other 48th Fighter Wing airmen suspected of using, possessing or distributing drugs.

The airmen come from the 48th Security Forces Squadron, 48th Communications Squadron, 48th Medical Support Squadron, 48th Component Maintenance Squadron, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron and 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said Tech Sgt. Claudette Hutchinson, a 48th Fighter Wing spokeswoman.

The investigation comprises several cases, not just one case involving all of the suspected airmen, she said.

It is led by the Office of Special Investigation with assistance from British Ministry of Defence police and the 100th Security Forces Squadron from RAF Mildenhall. The 100th is assisting for added manpower and because members of the 48th were among those under investigation, Hutchinson said.

Because the investigation is ongoing, Hutchinson said, she didn’t know how many airmen ultimately will be charged.

On Dec. 11, Airman 1st Class James Rotunda, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge, reduced in rank to E-1 and given 10 months’ confinement. Rotunda pleaded guilty to use of marijuana, Ecstasy, hashish and cocaine.

Most recently, Airman 1st Class Christian K. Amian was sentenced on Dec. 13 to a bad-conduct discharge, reduced in rank to E-1 and given 60 days’ confinement. Amian pleaded guilty to using Ecstasy.

Rotunda and Amian are serving their sentences at the RAF Lakenheath confinement facility.

The Air Force, along with every other military branch, has increased its efforts to catch drug users. Department of Defense officials in July signed a new policy to increase random drug testing.

Military officials say the growing number of servicemembers caught using Ecstasy is a “modest increase,” according to an August news release.

The release points out that in three years’ time, the number of servicemembers caught using the drug has almost quadrupled, from 495 servicemembers testing positive in fiscal 1999 to 1,744 servicemembers testing positive in fiscal 2001.

The maximum sentence for crimes involving drugs varies depending on the type of court-martial, as well as whether the individual possessed drugs for his own use or planned to distribute them. The frequency of drug use also plays into sentencing, Hutchinson said.

In a special court-martial, the maximum sentence is one year of confinement, a bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of two-thirds of the individual’s pay and reduction in rank to E-1. A general court-martial could lead to either a bad-conduct or dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and reduction to E-1. The length of confinement varies depending on the severity of the crime, and whether the individuals had the drugs for their own use or intended to distribute them.


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