Navy Investigating Allegations Japan-Based Sailors Used, Sold Drugs

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, underway in November 2017 during annual exercises with Japanese naval forces; some of its crew members are the target of a Navy drug investigation. (US Navy photo/Nathan Burke)
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, underway in November 2017 during annual exercises with Japanese naval forces; some of its crew members are the target of a Navy drug investigation. (US Navy photo/Nathan Burke)

Naval Criminal Investigative Service has opened an investigation into reports that a number sailors on board the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and ashore in Yokosuka, Japan have been using and distributing drugs, the Navy said Friday.

Wall Street Journal first reported that at least 12 sailors based in Japan were being investigated for allegedly selling and using illegal drugs, including LSD and Ecstasy. The outlet reported the investigation includes an inquiry into whether the sailors were distributing the drugs to Japanese civilians.

A spokesman for U.S. Seventh Fleet in Japan, Cmdr. Clay Doss, confirmed to Military.com that NCIS was investigating Yokosuka-based sailors for allegedly selling and distributing drugs.

“The Navy has zero tolerance for drug abuse and takes all allegations involving misconduct of our sailors, Navy civilians and family members very seriously,” he said. “These allegations are still under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A spokesman for NCIS, Ed Buice, said the investigative agency was probing allegations of drug use on board the Reagan. He added that NCIS does not discuss details of ongoing investigations.

Wall Street Journal reported the investigation began earlier this week with a tip regarding an enlisted sailor using drugs. It also reported that a “suspicious package” from one of the sailors under investigation had been intercepted in the local postal system.

The Navy, like the rest of the U.S. military, has a zero-tolerance drug policy, meaning individuals found to be using drugs face automatic processing for administrative separation, as well as criminal charges.

The investigation comes amid a lengthy period of shakeup in the Seventh Fleet: following two deadly ship collisions in the Pacific last summer, fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was removed from his post and replaced by Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer. Sawyer then proceeded to relieve two more Seventh Fleet commanders with purview over the ships: Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70, and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commander of Destroyer Squadron 15.

Just today, President Donald Trump announced his nomination for a new commander at U.S. Pacific Fleet: Vice Adm. John Aquilino, who arrived at his last post at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in September. If confirmed, he will replace Adm. Scott Swift, who announced last year that he will be retiring after being passed over for commander of U.S. Pacific Command in the wake of the collisions.

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