NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – The Navy said Wednesday it will conduct random blood-alcohol tests on its sailors in the United States starting next month, a sign of how concerned the service’s leaders have become about the effects alcohol abuse is having on the force.
The tests are part of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative, an expansive program intended to improve the well-being of sailors and Marines after more than a decade at war.
The Marines announced it would carry out its own random alcohol tests last month. While alcohol has long played a part in the Navy’s culture, Navy officials stressed they aren’t trying to stop sailors from drinking altogether, but are concerned about their health and safety.
The Navy said it will use the blood-alcohol tests to determine whether someone is fit for duty or may need counseling. Any sailor whose blood-alcohol level is .04 or higher when reporting for duty won’t be allowed to work. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a driver with a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol is considered drunk.
A positive test result for a sailor reporting to work _ a reading of 0.02 percent or higher _ won’t be used to punish sailors. But the Navy said it could be used to refer him or her to a drug and alcohol program adviser.
Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, said the random tests could help spot sailors who need support before “an incident occurs due to the irresponsible use of alcohol.” He also wrote in a message outlining the new details of the policy to the fleet that the tests will serve as a safety measure and raise awareness among commanding officers of a crew’s “culture of alcohol use.”
Alcohol is of particular concern because of the role it frequently plays in other destructive behaviors such as suicide and sexual assault. Alcohol also has played a factor in the dismissals of a number of commanding officers in recent years.
“Deterring irresponsible use of alcohol is essential to the readiness of our fleet and ensuring the health and safety of our service members and units,” Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, said in a statement.
In a pilot program with 13 commands this past summer, nearly 7,500 sailors were subjected to random alcohol tests. Of those, 87 tested positive for alcohol.
“The test verified that the majority of our service members, who choose to drink alcohol, do so responsibly. It also verified that our commanding officers need a flexible program that serves to increase the Navy’s awareness about the impacts of alcohol,” Gortney said in a statement.
By May 24, the Navy expects to have hand-held alcohol detection devices available for nearly 2,000 commands.
The 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative was unveiled by Mabus in a rare `all-hands’ call aboard a ship in Norfolk last March that was broadcast to sailors around the world. Among other things, it also focuses on preventing suicides, sexual assaults and increasing physical fitness. The Navy has also begun conducting random urine tests for synthetic drug use under the initiative.
Unlike the alcohol tests, those who test positive for synthetic drug use are subject to punishment.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night
- New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- Diet, exercise and aspirin: 3 tools to fight colon cancer
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- A preseason guide to avoid holiday weight gain
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns