Operation Nighthawk educates, curbs drug abuse

by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Nigel Carl, 86th Security Forces Squadron raven patrolman, radios in with his communication headquarters during his night shift March 6 on Ramstein. As the largest career field in the Air Force, it’s the job of security forces to protect, defend and fight global enemy forces. They are responsible for missile security, defending air bases, law enforcement, combat arms and handling military working dogs. — Photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer

An Airman pulls up to the gate after a night out. The Airman shows an ID card expecting to be waved through. The Airman is greeted with something else, however a white sheet of paper with the subject line “URINALYSIS INSPECTION ORDER.”

This past weekend, Operation Nighthawk commenced on Ramstein and Vogelweh.

“Operation Nighthawk is one aspect of deterrence measures available to a commander,” said Chief Master Sgt. Aaron Bennett, 86th Airlift Wing command chief. “It allows a wing commander to implement mass drug testing for military members in an effort to curb drug use and enforce existing policy regarding military members’ use of drugs.”

While several states have either decriminalized or legalized some types of recreational drugs, federal law still classifies many as illegal, and the Department of Defense authorizes Uniformed Code of Military Justice action against service members who are caught using, possessing or distributing drugs.

“The most important thing we need Airmen to remember is that if they do inhale, ingest or by any other means use any drug not prescribed to them, you will be caught,” said Brig. Gen. Richard G. Moore Jr., 86th Airlift Wing commander. “You will be caught, you will be punished, and you will be terminated from military service.”

In addition to losing a career and the pay that goes with it, Airmen risk housing, health care, life insurance and more. An important piece of paperwork that follows Airmen for the rest of their lives is the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.

“On your DD-214, if you were terminated for a drug offense … it informs potential employers of that offense,” Bennett said. “If an employer has two candidates applying for one position (and) one has a clean background, and you have a drug offense … who do you think they’re going to choose?”

Operation Nighthawk isn’t over though, and it won’t be limited to those just arriving at the gate. Operation Nighthawk can include unit-wide mass recalls for urinalysis, and drug-sniffing dog sweeps through dormitories and other buildings.

“This is going to be a continuing occurrence,” Moore said. “We need our Airmen to be the best they can possibly be, and they can’t be that while on drugs.”

The law is clear: if an Airman uses drugs, they will lose their military career, and the crime will follow them for the rest of their lives.