The military is declaring war against alcohol in a big way. Marines at Camp Pendleton, North San Diego California and Miramar California face random DUI Breathalyzer tests 2 times per year beginning January 1, 2013, San Diego DUI lawyers say.
This is clearly the toughest anti-drinking policy in the United States military, San Diego California attorneys are told.
Lt. Gen. R.E. Milstead Jr., deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, ordered any Marine or sailor with a BAC level of .01% or higher to be referred for possible alcohol counseling. Those with tests at .04% or higher shall be referred to medical personnel to check "fitness for duty."
The new order "is primarily for deterrence and education." Nothing will stop commanders from handing out punishment. Each unit will have an officer or staff noncommissioned officer to act as the alcohol screening program coordinator. In September, a study by the Institute of Medicine, per DOD discovered binge drinking, often called "sport drinking," is increasing among military personnel in all branches.
In 1998, 35% of personnel admitted to binge drinking in the previous year. In 2008, the last year for which statistics were available, that figure had risen to 47%. Twenty percent of personnel classified themselves as "heavy" drinkers.
Noting that "alcohol has long been part of military culture," the study's authors, including professors from USC and UC San Francisco, called for better leadership from the top of the chain of command in curbing excess drinking. Among the recommendations was "routine screening for excessive alcohol consumption."
Under the Marine order, monthly reports about the results of the alcohol screening program will be kept by each Marine unit, and quarterly reports will be submitted to Marine Corps headquarters.
In fiscal 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, the Marine Corps reported 13 alcohol-related deaths among Marines in this country and abroad. Included were Marines killed by vehicle and motorcycle crashes, one from falling 17 stories from a building, one from attempting to run across a freeway near Camp Pendleton and several that occurred during binge drinking when the Marine passed out and could not be revived.
Officials have also expressed alarm about a link between domestic violence and sexual assault cases and alcohol use. One summer Marine Corps report indicated that there had been 333 reported cases of sexual assault corpswide in 2011 and in many cases, the aggressor, the victim or both drank alcohol.