Naples captain's mast reiterates zero-tolerance policy on drinking and driving
May 10, 2006
NAPLES, Italy — Capt. Floyd Hehe doesn’t mince words: Sailors are drinking and driving and it has to stop. Break the rules, and you’ll pay a hefty price.
In front of peers, Hehe made an example Tuesday morning of one sailor recently caught behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.
He gathered about 120 sailors to a captain’s mast, or disciplinary hearing, to admonish the member. Typically, such proceedings are held in private.
“But I think this is the small tip of the iceberg,” Hehe, commanding officer at Naval Support Activity Naples, said in an interview afterward. “I think there’s a lot more going on than we’re catching. … But we’re not going to tolerate it.”
Since November, 16 people assigned to Naples-area commands have been stopped by base security, either driving while impaired or driving under the influence of alcohol, Hehe said.
The Navy classifies a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent as driving under the influence. Italian law caps the level at .05 percent. Drivers who measure between .05 and .08 percent in Naples are deemed to be driving while impaired.
Anything higher than .08 percent is classified as driving under the influence, which could lead to stiffer penalties, officials said.
Anyone caught driving while impaired loses driving privileges for up to a year. Military members caught driving while intoxicated will face an Article 15.
For several months, Hehe has taken steps such as increasing the number of random security inspections and using the AlcoBlow wand, a tool that detects alcohol on someone’s breath and in the ambient air in a car.
In June, when Hehe took command, he warned his sailors.
“I [told them I] was going to be hard on them. I didn’t want it to come as a surprise,” he said of the zero-tolerance stance.
On Tuesday, he proved it, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jorge Delgado said. If sailors had doubts Hehe wouldn’t back his word with actions, the captain’s mast erased them, Delgado, 35, said.
“I don’t think anyone wants this to happen again, especially not to them. I’m sure we were all thinking ‘I’d really hate to be in [the disciplined sailor’s] shoes.’”
Tuesday’s Article 15 was a nonjudicial process, and officials cannot release the sailor’s name. Hehe said the sailor was reduced in rank, lost half of his basic pay for two months, was placed on 30 days restriction and given 30 days of extra duty.
Other commands have delivered harsh messages.
For example, in February, a 22-year-old Italian man was killed in a head-on collision with a car driven by a American sailor assigned to 6th Fleet. Because of the incident, the command kicked the sailor, who had been drinking, out of the Navy.