A new policy taking effect on US military ships and submarines may at first seem strict, but it could prevent violence and suicide among future veterans.
Breathalyzers will be installed on all Navy ships and Marine Corps bases and submarines. The so-called “21st Century Sailor and Marine” initiative will give military leaders the authority to test whether a sailor or Marine has been drinking.
The policy was designed to catch early signs of alcoholism with the hopes of preventing alcohol-related issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault or suicide. Though sailors found to be drinking will not be punished, their superiors will record incidences and monitor any unhealthy trends.
After 10 years of war, many of the sailors and marines face unique stressors that could be curved with early intervention. Looking ahead, military services may be called upon more, and the country may come to rely on the health of its sailors and Marines, said Lt. Matt Allen, a Navy spokesman for the Pentagon.
“Each one of these sailors and Marines has a wealth of knowledge and skills,” Allen said. “If we can prevent losing them to suicide or [violence], this is something that will positively impact them and their community.”
The issue hit close to home in November of last year, when a local Marine was accused of murdering a fellow Marine in the barracks of Camp Pendleton.
According to two sources who talked to the North County Times, the victim confronted the suspect about his alcohol abuse. The suspect became “enraged,” beat Arias to death and then tried to kill himself by jumping from the balcony, according to the sources.
Though neither suicide nor domestic violence are on the rise currently in the military, the Navy and Marine Corps would like to see devastating deaths like these reduced and eventually non-existent.
“It’s beholden upon them to seek out these problems and try to find them beforehand,” Allen said. “The breathalyzer gives them the tool to do so.”
Reaction from sailors was mixed. Sailor Richard Gonzales said this policy will make the Navy and Marines better.
"I don't see any negative impact whatsoever," Gonzales said. "It just helps everyone out with a safer environment."
Sailor Jeremy Jordan said the new policy is unfair, and invades sailors' and Marines' privacy.
"I don't like it because I'm pretty sure that in the outside world that you know basically you know when you come to work there's no breathalyzers when you get there so why should it be there for us?" Jordan said.
However, he conceded, following rules is part of Navy life.
"We sign page 2 that blatantly says this is what you guys are authorized and not authorized to do you know," Jordan said. "So I definitely think you shouldn't drink and drive or you shouldn't come on your ship intoxicated."