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Breathalyzers to start hitting fleet Feb. 4

Jan. 22, 2013 - 06:43PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 22, 2013 - 06:43PM  |  
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What do you think?

The Navy says it’s going to use breathalyzers for education purposes only and that a positive test can’t land you an NJP. But in practice, do you think you’d still end up in hot water with your command? Do you feel this measure will reduce drinking in the fleet? Why or why not? Send your thoughts to staff writer Mark Faram at mfaram@navytimes.com. Your comments could appear in an upcoming story.

The Navy will begin breath-testing sailors for alcohol abuse by Feb. 4 and you should expect a full rollout by May, just in time for Memorial Day and the "long days of summer," according to a new, joint message from Fleet Forces and Pacific Fleet.

"We must educate service members on the responsible use of alcohol and deter alcohol abuse in the fleet, in home part and on deployment," wrote Adm. Bill Gortney and Adm. Cecil Haney in their message released Tuesday to commanders, commanding officers, officers in charge and command master chiefs.

"Service members who drink excessively or late into the night and report for duty under the influence of alcohol place themselves, their shipmates and our equipment at risk," they wrote. "This is unacceptable."

The Navy has said the testing will be non-punitive. But the Marine Corps, which is operating its testing independently from the Navy, has given discretion to commanders, who can flag problem-Marines for alcohol counseling. In severe cases, they may be disciplined.

The Navy conducted a pilot program last year and initially planned to rollout fleetwide testing before 2013.

The move was first announced as part of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine Initiative last March and called for the use of alcohol detection devices to curb binge drinking in the fleet. Navy officials have resisted to referring to the devices as "Breathalyzers," which is a name brand.

The new message states that the chief of naval personnel will release http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/NAVADMINS/NAV2013/NAV13012.txt">a NAVADMIN on Wednesday spelling out "policies and procedures" for commands. The official Navy instruction is also expected on Wednesday.

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