Sunday, May 12, 2002

11 Kaneohe sailors
dropped for using drugs

12 others violated the policy and
face the discharge procedure

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Eleven junior enlisted Kaneohe sailors have been discharged this year for using cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana.

Twelve others in the squadron, which flies P-3C Orion subhunters, are being processed for discharge after they were found to have been using illicit drugs under the Navy's "zero tolerance" program.

The 23 Kaneohe sailors here are all members of Patrol Squadron 47 (VP-47) stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay. Two other squadrons in the wing recently returned after participating in the highly-secretive reconnaissance and surveillance mission in the Afghan war.

Cmdr. Roxie Merritt, Pacific Fleet spokeswoman, said air crew members of the 390-member squadron, known as the "Golden Swordsman," were not involved. The unit is scheduled to deploy for six months in June.

"This will have no effect on VP-47's ability to deploy and carry out its missions," Merritt added.

VP-47 flies the P-3 Orion, a fixed wing maritime anti-submarine warfare and surveillance aircraft.

Nor will any disciplinary action be taken against Cmdr. Keith Bluestein, who commanded the squadron until he was assigned a new position in the Pentagon, Merritt said.

Merritt said, "The drug use in this instance was brought to light following admissions by several sailors in the squadron and through urinalysis testing. The sailors in question are maintenance and support personnel."

Merritt described the Kaneohe incident as "an unusual anomaly."

"The overall trend of drug use in the Navy is extremely low and continues to get lower every year," she said. "The percentage of personnel with positive urinalysis is less than one percent. These numbers indicate that our zero tolerance policy is successful."

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