NORFOLK-- The Navy’s top medical officer says “the message is definitely getting through” to the rank and file when it comes to substance abuse.
Navy Surgeon General and Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Vice Admiral Matthew Nathan, says it’s “heartbreaking” when some sailors break the rules.
“The good news is that in my travels around the Navy and around Navy medicine, 99 percent of our people are on point, they’re on their game, they’re eager to be part of it and really want the Navy to be the poster child for integrity and strong ethics,” Nathan said.
Nathan’s comments came one day after the Navy confirmed that 11 USS Wasp sailors have been disciplined for using the synthetic marijuana-like compound Spice.
Two more sailors face a Captain’s Mast for allegedly using, buying or distributing the hallucinogenic compound known as Smiles.
Nathan was at Naval Station Norfolk Wednesday to meet with several hundred Hampton Roads-based hospital corpsmen. He thanked them for their dedicated service during the past eleven years at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Nathan believes the Navy’s zero-tolerance policy on substance abuse is making an important difference, but unfortunately some sailors aren’t on board.
“We’re always going to have some of those folks who don’t get the message. They don’t adhere to the fitness standards, they don’t adhere to the good order and discipline, they don’t stay away from substances, or they let their integrity and their judgment falter. And the sad thing is, sometimes those are good people who make these judgment errors and it not only impacts their career, it impacts their life,” he said.
Nathan admitted he’s somewhat worried about the lingering threat of massive defense cuts, sequestration and what impact defense reductions could have on readiness, but he indicated he is also confident.
“I think anytime you’re facing a budget deficit and a decrease in your budget, you’ve got to reshape, rethink and restrategize how you’re going to perform the mission,” he said. “And it hasn’t been the first time in our nation’s history that our Navy has had to weave its way through a decreased budget. We’ll do it. It’ll put pressure on us to find innovations. It’ll put pressure on us to figure out how to do more, leverage more efficiency in technology and use our personnel at peak efficiency.”