USAREUR commander sends out substance abuse safety alert to troops
The commander of U.S. Army Europe, Gen. B.B. Bell, has issued a substance abuse safety alert to troops following the deaths of two soldiers.
One died after a drug-and-alcohol-fueled car crash that also paralyzed his passenger, though no other details were available. The second case was that of a soldier who died in late October, possibly from poisoning, after apparently inhaling aerosol cleaner.
The soldier was found in his barracks room, lying face down on his bed. Blood and vomit stained the pillow.
Though that soldier was unnamed in Bell’s message, it suggested new details in the death of Cpl. Jacques Francois Kessler. The 22-year-old was found in his barracks on Oct. 25 at Cambrai-Fritsch Casern in Darmstadt, Germany. The military has previously refused to release further information, citing an ongoing investigation by the Criminal Investigation Command.
Kessler was a native of Tipp City, Ohio. He was assigned to the 440th Signal Battalion, 22nd Signal Brigade. He served one year in Iraq.
Though the death is under investigation, preliminary autopsy results found diflouroethane in his system. A can of spray cleaner containing the chemical was also found in the room, Bell’s message said.
Bell’s statement told leaders to be aware of drug abuse, including use of inhalants, and to send soldiers to counseling when appropriate. It also called on soldiers to police one another and make sure abusers get help.
“Remember, professional soldiers do not abuse drugs, drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or needlessly place their lives or the lives of others at risk,” the signed message read. “We must live the Warrior Ethos on and off duty.”
Both soldiers were attached to V Corps. Spokeswoman Connie Summers said she had no further information to release on either death.
“At this time, these are only preliminary findings,” Summers said, referring to the aerosol death. “We do not comment on preliminary findings.”
Inhalants — which include cleaners, glue and rubber cement — can cause brain damage, paranoia, tremors and damage to kidneys and lungs. They can induce an irregular heartbeat, resulting in death. Aerosols can also freeze the respiratory system, suffocating the user.
A spokeswoman for the Army’s Installation Management Agency-Europe said Bell’s message did not signal any escalation in substance abuse.
“It’s been pretty consistent,” Millie Waters said. “There’s no trend that shows an increase.”
Since 2000, the Army has averaged about 2.75 alcohol- or drug-related traffic offenses per day in Europe — a figure including troops, civilian employees and their families, Waters said. Most violations happen on weekends, and the majority of offenders are ages 18 to 25.
A spokesman for U.S. Army Europe said the “Bell Sends” message was intended as a cautionary one.
“General Bell, one of his top priorities is the safety of his soldiers,” spokesman Bob Purtiman said.
“The reason he puts them out is to let soldiers know what can happen.”