The Coast Guard disciplined 16 service members, most of whom were assigned to various Coast Guard units in Kodiak, for wrongful use of controlled substances and other related misconduct at nonjudicial punishment proceedings on Thursday and Friday.
The proceedings are a result of an internal investigation into alleged illicit drug activity among service members. The Coast Guard learned of allegations in the fall of 2018 and referred the matter to the Coast Guard Investigative Service. A total of 31 service members have faced some kind of punishment as a result of the investigation so far; the investigation remains ongoing.
Nonjudicial punishment is a disciplinary proceeding during which the convening authority hears and disposes of cases in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Rear Adm. Matthew T. Bell Jr., commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th District, was in town last week for the proceedings.
“The Coast Guard has a proud tradition of deterring drug smuggling and other illicit acts,” Rear Adm. Bel said. “As public officials, we hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards. Wrongful use of controlled substances is unlawful and directly contradicts the Coast Guard core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.”
Nonjudicial punishment is disciplinary in nature and is not a criminal conviction. According to the release, “The results of nonjudicial punishment can include loss of pay, reduction in paygrade, as well as restriction for a period of time to a specified location, such as a barracks or base.” By policy, any service member found to be using illicit drugs is administratively processed for separation from the service.
In February, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported that the Coast Guard had initiated criminal proceedings against 12 service members — most of whom were assigned to various units in Kodiak — for allegedly using illegal drugs. Additionally, six service members were disciplined at nonjudicial punishment proceedings and were processed for separation from the service.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Raymond Reichl, of the 12 service members who were criminally charged, three made plea agreements and are no longer facing criminal charges. These three service members were instead part of the nonjudicial proceedings that took place last week.
“We’ve got nine people that are still facing criminal charges,” Reichl said.
In October, Reichl, who is an external affairs officer for USCG District 17, was unable to reveal what initiated the investigation, but said that the Coast Guard Investigative Unit received “an indicator” and has continued to look into it as “more and more details unraveled,” which expanded the scope of the investigation.
The Coast Guard has not revealed the identity of any service members charged or punished in the investigation.