The phrase ‘Just Say No to Drugs’ may seem like an old cliché from the 1980’s, but if you are a Soldier or Family Member at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, you should pay attention and take that advice to heart.
Abusing illegal drugs at the NTC and Fort Irwin can have serious and long lasting consequences for both Soldiers and their Families. Recently, two Soldiers found this out the hard way. Here are their stories:
Soldier X was a sergeant assigned to Fort Irwin. He had been in the Army since 2004, deployed twice to Iraq, and had earned the Combat Action Badge and three Army Commendation Medals. Beginning in February or March 2012, he started using marijuana because he did not want to be in the Army anymore. After testing positive for marijuana during a unit urinalysis inspection, he was punished under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and reduced to the rank of specialist. Prior to this incident, Soldier X had never been in trouble before.
After receiving his first Article 15, Soldier X continued to smoke marijuana and tested positive again in April 2012. As a result, he received another Article 15 and was reduced to private (E-1). Because of his flagrant lack of respect for discipline and the law, separation was initiated under Chapter 14 of Army Regulation 635-200. In accordance with Army regulations, an Administrative Separation Board reviewed Private X’s case, along with his personnel file. Despite his honorable service during two deployments to Iraq, the board recommended that Private X be separated with an Other Than Honorable (OTH) conditions characterization of service. The Commanding General concurred.
Soldier X will have to carry his OTH discharge with him the rest of his life. Because of it, he is no longer eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill. If he paid into the Montgomery GI Bill, he lost that too. Additionally, Soldier X will most likely not receive any benefits at all from the Veterans Affairs, and with an OTH discharge on his DD214 form, finding civilian employment may prove to be extremely difficult. Soldier X got out of the Army, but he found out the hard way that using illegal drugs was not an “easy out.”
Soldier Y was a specialist assigned to Fort Irwin. He deployed once to Iraq, and like Soldier X, had never been in trouble with the Army before. Soldier Y is married and has three children.
Beginning in the summer of 2011, Soldier Y started selling marijuana to other Soldiers and civilians on-post. During rotations, he would use his wife to help him complete the transactions. In November 2011, his wife was arrested in a sting operation conducted by Fort Irwin Criminal Investigative Division. Because some of the drug sales occurred at his home, Child Protective Services placed two of his children in protective custody for two months.
In October 2012, Soldier Y pled guilty at a General Court-Martial to Conspiracy to Wrongfully Distribute Marijuana in violation of Article 81 of the UCMJ, and Wrongful Introduction and Distribution of Marijuana in violation of Article 112a of the UCMJ. After listening to Soldier Y explain his actions and his desire to take care of his family, in addition to hearing testimony from his mother, the Military Judge sentenced him to 30 months confinement and a Bad-Conduct Discharge. Because Soldier Y pled guilty, the Commanding General will reduce his confinement to 24 months.
Illegal drugs continue to be a problem at the NTC and Fort Irwin. “Spice,” marijuana, and methamphetamines are readily available throughout California, but this is no excuse. Abuse of illegal drugs undermines mission readiness and good order and discipline. Soldiers tempted to get involved with illegal drugs should remember what happened to Soldier X and Soldier Y. These Soldiers will have to pay for this misconduct the rest of their lives – don’t let that be you.