RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Lt. Col. Bill Delaney was met with some sobering news when he arrived to take command of the 48th Security Forces Squadron last year.

Several of his cops, he was told by the Office of Special Investigations, were being watched for drug use on base.

“They told me it was substantial in the unit,” Delaney said Thursday afternoon.

Eventually, 27 people were arrested for drug use and distribution on base, 15 of them cops. The investigation went public in October.

The final court-martial from the investigation was last month. Of the 27, one person was acquitted. Another was acquitted of the drug charge but found guilty of fraudulent enlistment for lying about drug use when enlisting.

Fifteen faced courts-martial and the rest were dealt with administratively.

None of the 27 remain in the Air Force. The person acquitted of all charges did not re-enlist.

The investigation touched not only the security forces. It included people across the wing, from maintainers and communicators to people in the medical group and even a flying squadron.

Delaney acknowledged that law-breaking lawmen are looked at differently.

“Nobody was more disappointed than squadron leadership,” said Delaney. “The security forces community has a culture that has a very low tolerance for people that break the law.”

Capt. Josh Burgess, the chief of military justice for RAF Lakenheath, said the investigation kicked off when a security forces member came forward and reported drug use in the squadron. OSI put someone undercover to gather information. The drugs involved were hashish, marijuana and Ecstasy.

He said it was the largest drug bust he has been associated with in six years in the Air Force. However, he said, it seemed to have sent the correct message.

“I think I can safely say that since this drug bust, we haven’t had a stand-alone drug bust here,” he said.

Perhaps, he said, people are smarter about their drug use, “but I doubt it.” Instead, he said, people have probably learned that drug use will be discovered and punished according to the service’s zero tolerance policy.

The unit is a proud one, Delaney said. The walls of its headquarters bear the evidence of that. Three years ago, it was named the top security forces unit in U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

“The drug pop pretty much erased that from the minds of many,” Delaney said. “Out of all of it, that’s probably the worst thing that could happen.

“We submitted the unit for the 2002 award because we had some strong accomplishments. But when you’re competing against some very good units and one has a drug bust and one doesn’t, I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out who’s going to win.”

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