Marines to Test for Drunkenness on Duty

The Marine Corps has issued new rules for randomly testing its warriors twice yearly with a Breathalyzer to make sure they are not drunk on duty.

The Dec. 12 memo from Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon said test kits are being shipped to commanders, including those in war zones, and spells out steps to take if a Marine registers a blood-alcohol content of .01 or higher in the test.

The random mandatory testing is called the Alcohol Screening Program (ASP).

“The ASP provides an opportunity for commanders to identify those individuals in need of alcohol abuse/misuse training, counseling and/or treatment. … Commanders shall ensure that all Marines and sailors in their commands are tested twice per year,” the memo states.

Navy and Marine officials said in March the military branches would begin alcohol screening in addition to the already mandated urinalysis to counter drug abuse.

The Dec. 12 memo explains how a new bureaucracy will be created to carry out the testing and, perhaps, discipline.

The memo directs commanders to “consolidate and analyze monthly alcohol screening results submitted by units” and then provide quarterly reports to the Pentagon. Each unit must appoint an alcohol screening program coordinator (ASPC).

The directive says more guidelines to commanders are on the way.

A Marine who records a .01 blood-alcohol content level will receive counseling. A Marine who registers a .04 must be examined by medical staff for fitness for duty.

A blood-alcohol content of .08 -- which means eight one-hundredths of 1 percent of the blood by volume is alcohol -- is the U.S. standard for drunkenness while driving. Concentration, reasoning, depth perception and other skills can be impaired by a blood-alcohol content lower than .08.

According to the University of Oklahoma Police Department, a 160-pound person who drinks two regular 12-ounce beers in an hour will have a blood-alcohol content of .02 and could possibly show some signs of impairment.

The memo says commanders are empowered to discipline drunk Marines “should the situation warrant.”

The Marine Corps Times, an independent newspaper, reported earlier this year that Marine leaders believe alcohol abuse is at the heart of societal problems inside the Corps and have begun a counseling program.

Focus groups have revealed that some Marines believe “responsible drinking” amounts to 15 to 18 beers.

Marine spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Plenzler told The Washington Times that all members, including senior officers and Gen. James Amos, the commandant, are subject to drug testing and the new twice-yearly Breathalyzer tests.

“All Marines, regardless of rank, participate,” he said.

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