Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Drugs in the Army--Then and Now

This drug testing class is not very much fun. Forty hours of how to fill out paperwork and supervise urinalysis drug tests. This program started in 1971 and continues with more and more emphasis for nearly 40 years.

From the perspective of someone who served at both ends of the program, the class never addresses the really important difference 38 years of drug testing has made in the military. For me, the primary difference is that people inclined to use drugs know they are going to be hassled for all of their career and, thankfully, they mostly decide to get out.

Back in the 70s, that was not the case.

When our unit got a new platoon sergeant in the 1970s, everybody hoped it was one of the young guys with only one tour in Viet Nam, or better yet, none. Because you never knew back then if the guy running the tank platoon was going to be an experienced NCO who knew tanks and soldiering really well, or a burnout who was just trying to get to 20. The great thing that continuous testing does it make it hard for addicts to stay in. Most soldiers who really want to do drugs end up getting out before they are in charge of anything.

Most, not all. The bind the Army is in is that they instill pride in us. But pride is a sword that cuts in two directions. Once you make a soldier proud in a positive sense, you have given that soldier everything he needs to believe he can do anything. So there will always be a few cases of the senior sergeants and officers who take the pride that got them the rank and let it convince them they are smarter than everybody else.

Family Black Sheep Flies a MEDEVAC Blackhawk

Brooklyn-born Amira Talifi, (not her real name) is a helicopter pilot I served with in the Army National Guard. She is one of seven ch...