Saturday, January 5, 2013

In Loco Parentis or Bureaucratic Cowardice

A few years ago now, I commanded a KC-130 detachment in Afghanistan. One of my enlisted Marines was acting strangely. He would have sunglasses on inside a tent, acted strangely boisterous at times, and sometimes seemed a little bit loopy. The boisterousness was a single data point I wrote off, as were the sunglasses which I told him to take off. Then one night I was talking to another officer in our billeting area (the entire det lived together in relocatable buildings, RLBs), when this Marine walked by us to the head, listing several degrees to port. It was the middle of the night as I'd just come in from a night flight, but I still said to the other officer, "What the f#$%?" When the Marine came out of the head, he was walking more normally, but still groggy. Again, I chalked it up to him being a heavy sleeper, but my suspicions were raised. Within a day or two, he came in late to work and the dots aligned somewhat. I got several officers together, including my legal officer. I stated that I thought he was on something and asked the legal officer if I could test him. The answer I got was that the thin evidence we had was not enough for "probable cause" and that we did not have the means at our location anyway. Instead, the Marine's direct officer-in-charge and a SNCO counseled him, told him of my suspicions, tried to put the "fear of God" in him, and got some slick excuses for his behavior and a promise that it wouldn't happen again. The Marine was on his best behavior for about two weeks.