Officials at Yokota Air Base, Japan, closed the main gate and tested 273 service members for illegal drugs over the weekend. (A1C Michael Dillon / Air Force)
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Officials at Yokota Air Base, Japan, closed the main gate and tested 273 service members for illegal drugs over the weekend, causing an hours-long wait for airmen returning from a night out.
The tests were not in response to a specific event, but “in accordance with the commander’s intent to maintain the health and wellness of a ready force as well as a drug-free military community,” Yokota spokesman 2nd Lt. Jacob Bailey said in an email.
The large-scale testing is used to “assist in assessing the military fitness and readiness of the command” by identifying those who use drugs. While not often used, gate sweeps are measures that commanders can take when they want to test large numbers of airmen, Bailey said.
“The message we are sending through random drug testing and sweeps is clear and consistent — we will not tolerate the use of prohibited substances by our service members, and we will prosecute offenders.”
It will take about two weeks to process the results, Bailey said.
U.S. bases in Japan have previously taken steps to curb offenses by service members. Bases have a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew for troops in ranks E-5 and below. Between 9 p.m. and midnight, airmen must have a “liberty buddy” while off base. The steps were taken in response to multiple violent incidents in the region by service members off base. ?
The bases imposed even stronger liberty restrictions that limited the amount of alcohol service members could consume while off base, but eased those restrictions in May 2013.