10News confirmed that military leaders are preparing to launch their most aggressive attack ever on problem drinking in the Marines.
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In February, a car smashed against a palm tree in Dana Point. Three Marines were killed. The driver, a Camp Pendleton Marine, is accused of driving drunk and vehicular manslaughter.
In July, Ashley Maya pleaded guilty to killing another Marine and injuring a friend after a night of drinking in the Gaslamp.
Both are recent examples of a problem that Will Jones, a program manager at a substance abuse center, knows well.
"The guys on the base were drinking," said Jones. "That's just what we did."
Jones, who was medically discharged from the Marines after three years, was once court-martialed for a drunken fight.
"I was sentenced to 45 days at that court martial," said Jones.
Decades later, there is an enduring drinking problem in the Marines. In the latest numbers, there were 1,245 DUIs in one year. There were 22 alcohol-related fatalities an increase of four deaths in two years.
Marine leaders have also said binge drinking is tied to growing concerns about suicide and sexual assault.
In response, the draft of a comprehensive plan to get Marines to drink less is due out in September. In a briefing obtained by 10News, some tactics are hinted at. Those include early intervention for high-risk alcohol users, breathalyzer tests, gate checks and developing alternative activities to drinking.
"It's going to be a major challenge," said Jones.
Jones, who has worked with military DUI offenders, said any effort must include plenty of treatment options.
"In the service, it's more of a coping mechanism," he said.
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