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BDF weeds out three


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by WADE GIBBONSThree soldiers were thrown out of the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) for failing  drug tests.Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant Colonel Atheline Branch told the WEEKEND NATION the BDF’s mandatory drug testing policy was  reaping success.“As you would be aware soldiers here carry weapons. So for us to have somebody under the influence is particularly dangerous. So as a result we have instituted the drug testing policy and we have zero tolerance because of the nature of the job itself,” she said.Branch added: “By doing the drug testing, we have it to be somewhat of a deterrent. You want the soldiers to know they will be tested and hopefully that will keep them away from using any forms of illegal drugs because it seems to be very prevalent in society.”Underscoring the necessity  for being vigilant in such an essential service, the BDF’s acting deputy chief of staff explained that the organisation drew its soldiers from society  and they had to go back into the various communities when they were off-duty. Branch, who returned to Barbados last year after an extended posting overseas, said compulsory drug testing had been in place for at least  the past year and was done  at both recruitment and  in-service stages.“Every case is investigated first. If the soldiers are found out, they are interviewed by a panel to discuss what has occurred,” she said.A check with public relations officer of the Royal Barbados Police Force David Welch revealed that drug testing was also part of their protocols, but only at the recruitment stage.Chief Fire Officer Wilfred Marshall said no drug testing procedure existed within the Barbados Fire Service, while an official of Her Majesty’s Prisons at Dodds, St Philip, said that service had initial medical testing for recruits, inclusive  of urine checks, but no in-service drug testing regimen.Branch said the response  to the drug testing strategy  at the BDF had been favourable. “Everybody gets tested. So it is not something that is a surprise. They all know about it. We talked extensively with the soldiers before it was instituted. The policy itself was posted on our notice boards so they could be fully aware quite a while before it was actually instituted,”  she said.Branch explained that every few months the BDF’s hierarchy highlighted drug testing awareness. She said this was necessary because of new people coming into the service. • [email protected]