Drug probe at Eielson widens

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The number of people at Eielson Air Force Base suspected of using illegal drugs has grown to include 25 people, base officials said Thursday.

Nine people were detained Dec. 8 on suspicion of using marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, cocaine or steroids, prompting the base commander to order an early morning drug test for about 930 other airmen.

The testing occurred within 24 hours of the first detentions. Base commander Col. Jan-Marc Jouas said those tests led to three people testing positive for drug use.

Eielson spokeswoman Maj. Valerie Trefts said the Air Force Office of Special Investigations interviewed 40 airmen and civilians in connection with the investigation. That led to 13 additional service members being identified as illegal users, bringing the total to 25 airmen.

''Those 25 people that have been substantiated, they are pending legal action'' and have not been charged, she said. Charges should be filed by Eielson's legal military office within the next couple of weeks, she said.

Jouas said that because of the Air Force's zero tolerance of drugs, users will be discharged from the military.

''We don't have room for them in the Air Force.'' Of the 25, 17 were from the 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, five were from the 354th Maintenance Squadron and one was from a supply unit. Two others have already transferred out of Eielson.

''But OSI (Office of Special Investigations) at that location that they've moved to have picked up the investigation,'' Trefts said. One of the airmen is suspected of distributing the drugs to others, she said.

Trefts said the Air Force has several degrees of punishment but that, based on military regulations, the most a service member could face if found guilty during a court-martial of marijuana use is a dishonorable discharge and confinement for two years. For use of drugs such as cocaine, the maximum penalty could be a dishonorable discharge and five years' jail time. Anyone found guilty during a court-martial for distribution of an illegal drug could face up to 15 years in a military prison and a dishonorable discharge.

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