Health & Safety

January 10, 2013

Corps adds random breathalyzer tests to repertoire of ways to keep Marines accountable

Cpl. Aaron Diamant

YUMA, Ariz. – It seems Marines will now face random breathalyzer tests, as well as tests before assuming a duty post, as part of the Alcohol Screening Program.

The days of being allowed one beer at lunch are long gone, and now the days of showing up to work with alcohol still in your system are done too.

I can see both sides of this, one looking to lessen the Corps‚’ instances of alcohol abuse, the other Marines either worried about being caught, or those of us who aren‚’t worried seeing it as one more waste of our time.

Beginning Jan. 1, all Marines and Sailors will be tested as least twice per year. Commanders may refer Marines who test positive of greater than .01 percent blood alcohol content to training, education and further screening by the Substance Abuse Counseling Center. Marines found over .04 percent BAC may be referred to medical for a “Fit for Duty” determination.

The Corps maintains the ASP is primarily for deterrence and education. However, it does not preclude commanders from taking appropriate administrative action should a situation warrant.

As Marines, we are held to a higher standard of conduct. Now, the Corps is simply checking to ensure we adhere to it.

Alcohol abuse can be quite a serious problem. As a former law enforcement officer, I‚’ve seen firsthand some of the devastating effects that result from mixing alcohol and driving. Some of those scenes haunt me even years later. Being the first person to arrive at the scene of a crash that resulted in two toddlers being pretty seriously hurt by a drunk driver is something you can‚’t just forget about.

The worst part of it was, in my mind anyway, it was a single-vehicle crash. The two children were the drunk drivers‚’ nephews, not properly restrained in the car, and one very nearly died.
Both of the kids wound up surviving, but the guilty party did a few years in prison, thanks in part to the witnesses who took action to help the children and keep the drunk driver from fleeing the scene until the emergency responders arrived, and a whole lot of paperwork done by yours truly. This person was so intoxicated, they wanted to leave their own injured family members behind to get away before the police arrived. That‚’s a level of low I never knew existed until then, and still bothers me.

As simple and cliche as it sounds, drinking and driving isn‚’t worth it. Fines and punishment for a “simple” DUI are bad enough, living with the consequences of hurting or killing someone due to a DUI are something I can hardly fathom, and wouldn’t wish on anyone.

The Corps is rightfully taking steps to reduce alcohol abuse. Granted, in the scheme of things it might seem like a huge step or inconvenience, but on the other side of it, knowing you shouldn’t show up to work drunk is common knowledge.

My hope for this program is, as the Corps maintains, it is used primarily to get people struggling with alcohol addiction the help they need. After all, the Corps is known for “taking care of our own.”

Obviously, there will be instances of people failing treatment programs or repeat offenders. These people should be dealt with accordingly.

For those of us who don‚’t abuse alcohol, sure there is nothing to worry about, but don‚’t look at this program as an inconvenience. I thought it was a waste of time when I first heard about it, but looking more into it, this could be a viable tool to better keep our Corps‚’ reputation as the finest fighting force the world has ever known. Keeping our Marines fit to fight is priority number one, and doing much of anything at all with a hangover is near impossible, let alone defending our great nation.

As Marines, we improvise, adapt and overcome. This is one more thing we‚’ll have to adapt to, embrace, and before we know it, it will be second nature just like service uniform Fridays.

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