WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy said on Monday it will begin breathalyzer tests for many sailors and random testing for synthetic drugs after dozens of sailors on aircraft carriers involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were discharged last year for drug use.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a worldwide address to Navy personnel that breathalyzer tests will be conducted for sailors stationed onboard ships, submarines and at air squadrons report for duty to curb alcohol abuse. The breathalyzer tests also will be carried out randomly elsewhere.
The Navy will begin random testing of urine samples this month for synthetic chemical compounds such as Spice, a synthetic marijuana, Mabus said.
In two separate incidents last year, the Navy discharged a total of 94 sailors for using Spice, which mimics the affects of marijuana. Most were discharged from aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson, best known as the vessel used to dispose of Osama bin Laden’s body, and the USS Ronald Reagan.
The new policy is part of a program aimed at improving sailors’ and Marines’ readiness, the statement said.
Under the program, the Navy and Marines also will end discounts for cigarettes at the services’ exchanges. Ending the discounts will bring prices up to market levels.
“Various programs fall under the readiness area, all of which help ensure we have the most mentally prepared service members and family in department history,” Mabus said.
Reporting By Ian Simpson