“DRUGS have been a part of military life for generations. This is nothing new.”

Andy McNab silhouetteAndy writes another article for The Sun. Again not such good news, the topic this time being the latest reports on drug-taking in the Army.

The Sun: DRUG-taking is rife in the Army, according to a new report, with the equivalent of almost a battalion of soldiers dismissed every year as a result. Positive tests rose from 517 in 2003 to 769 last year. And cocaine use went up fourfold.

Andy’s view:

DRUGS have been a part of military life for generations. This is nothing new.

I remember soon after I joined the Army being shown a video about drugs. It was the early Eighties but the video was in a Sixties style. The film focused on an aircraft technician who kept getting psychedelic flashbacks because he had been taking LSD. Because he was under the influence he forgot to attach this one bolt. You can imagine the message — as a result the aeroplane crashed.

Like the rest of society the problem of drugs is not a new one.

It is so important that the military are completely in control because unlike any other job the consequences of their judgment being impaired by drugs are disastrous. Not only could innocent civilians get killed but so could your own side. That is why the penalty for taking drugs is so harsh — dishonourable discharge.

Every soldier knows the risks of getting caught but like any section in society there will always be a small minority who are prepared to take the risk.

Take the infantry boys who I worked with — most of them come from inner city areas where drugs are a part of life.
They are bored at home, experiment with drugs then decide to try to do something with their lives. Some take the habit with them into the Army, some leave it behind.

As an 18-year-old squaddie my first posting was to Gibraltar. A few of the lads used to cross to north Africa to buy drugs. They used some of it and sold the rest. But they were only a few. A couple of them got a court martial for trying to sell it downtown.

And the military is subject to the same checks as civilians when they go abroad. The military airports have the same Customs checks. In fact I would say they are stricter than civilian airports — they have to be. Can you imagine what a catastrophe it would be if a soldier managed to smuggle weapons back from a war zone?

Apart from the strict Customs checks, the military has introduced stringent drugs testing. As well as random checks including urine sample tests, if anyone is under suspicion they will haul them in to be tested. I remember when my unit returned from a long exercise in Cyprus in the Eighties. About three days after we returned to our garrison town of Tidworth, Hants, we had a surprise drugs check. Whole buses of police turned up and the place was ripped apart.

I’m sure the higher number of discharged soldiers due to illegal drug-taking is because of improved testing facilities. Living and working in the military is a very close-knit community — it is very confined and close. You don’t manage to keep anything quiet for long.

While a battalion may seem like a lot of men, I’m sure it is merely representative of the society we live in.

No matter what your class, age or job, drugs are everywhere.

Click here to go The SUN

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