On Tuesday, Fort Stewart, Georgia went into lock down mode. The reason? The authorities at Fort Stewart believe that soldiers were using, possessing, and/or selling cocaine. At least one soldier was charged with cocaine trafficking.
PFC Mario Figueroa was jailed and remained in jail until Wednesday, last week. However, PFC Mario Figueroa is not the only soldier implicated in this crime. The three-month investigation has led authorities to 64 soldiers who possibly used, bought, or sold cocaine.
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson did not comment on the arrests or investigation.
These soldiers will not be prosecuted under the military law but in the Georgia courts. In Georgia, one can be charged with trafficking cocaine for possession of 28 grams of cocaine. For context, the popular slang term 8 ball contains 3-3.5 grams of cocaine. So, 28 grams is not a small amount and could indicate the intent to sell.
The commander of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Major General James E. Rainey, issued this statement:
“We dedicate resources and work closely with our local law enforcement partners to identify and suppress illegal drug use in our ranks. We take this seriously, and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure our Army and communities are drug-free. There are over 25,000 men and women serving in the Army at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield who selflessly defend our country every day. This incident does not diminish their hard work and sacrifices.”
This case is of interest because people generally conceive military men and women to be above-board, uncorrupted, idealized patriots that are, because they are members of the United States Military – the greatest military power in the history of the world – to be flawless, to be bulletproof. How we like to think of our soldiers was exemplified and manifest just this past week.
At the Boston Marathon – the scene of a terror attack two years ago – Staff Sergeant Jose Luis Sanchez, a retired marine, ran and finished whilst holding the American flag the entire time. And he did it on one leg. Sanchez donned a Semper Fi shirt and a prosthetic leg and finished the marathon in six-hours – trudging and pushing through sheer force of will. Sanchez lost his left leg when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan.
After finishing the marathon, Sanchez stated, “I wanted to not only recognize veterans but everyone that think that they’re unable to do something. I couldn’t stand up for more than three seconds or walk more than two feet. And I found for four, five years, just to be able to walk farther, be able to lift my body up. I kept on pushing it. Mentally and spiritually, I was good, so I wanted to push it even father and do the marathon.”
This is the kind of man that we imagine – who embodies tenacity, high-mindedness, and perseverance – when we imagine an American military person (especially a Marine). However, most soldiers have a hard time reacclimating to civilian life, and an indication of that is drug use and abuse amongst soldiers.
Historically, drug use is not foreign to active military members.
The Committee on Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Management of Substance Use Disorders in the U.S. Armed Forces released a study in 2013, through National Academies Press, located in D.C., called Substance Use Disorders in the U.S. Armed Forces.
This study asserts, “Service members have engaged in licit drug use (i.e., the use of illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs) since discovering that they reduced pain, lessened fatigue, or helped in coping with boredom or panic that accompany battle.”
Interestingly, illicit drug use is considered a quell to both panic and boredom, two ends of the spectrum.
Continuing, “In the modern U.S. military, drug use surfaced as a problem during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Heroin and opium were widely used by service members in Vietnam, partly to help them tolerate the challenges of the war environment. It was estimated that almost 43% of those who served in Vietnam used these drugs at least once, and half of those who used were thought to be dependent on them at some time. In the active duty component of the military, marijuana has been the most widely used illicit drug since the early 1980s.”
The study goes on to show that the most detrimental and most serious problem that the military has with regards to drugs is the prescription opioid addiction.
However, the prevention of drug use and drug-related crimes is also of high importance for the military leaders, and thus, the case of PFC Mario Figueroa may serve as a warning to the other officers in the military.
In Georgia, the possession of cocaine can be punished from 2-15 years in prison. One wonders if the judge will take it easy on a soldier, or hold him to a higher standard and make an example of a military man breaking the law.