Sifting through the myths of DDR

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Airmen are entrusted to protect the nation and themselves. Whether it’s drawing a blood sample or packing a parachute, Airmen must be situationally aware with a drug-free, stable mind.

Would you want someone who’s high on illegal drugs, or an unauthorized controlled substance such as someone else’s prescription or an outdated one of your own, packing the parachute that you have to jump out of a plane with?

The Air Force is committed to remaining a drug-free fighting force. One proactive method used to reduce drug use across the U.S. military is the Drug Demand Reduction program. The DDR initiative randomly tests all active duty service members for drugs and is governed by the Department of Defense.

“The biggest benefit from the DDR program is probably the deterrence factor,” said Special Agent Christopher Spangler, Detachment 211 superintendent.  “Airmen know that unit sweeps and random urine analysis take place. So if they are tempted to take drugs, they know that there’s the possibility a random inspection could take place and they could get caught.”

However, when Airmen discuss drug tests, often times many myths and rumors are unintentionally spread.

“There’s always the myth out there that false positive [results] exist,” said Spangler.  “I’ve been an agent for more than 12 years and I’ve never seen a false positive. Any time a positive urine analysis takes place, that’s one of the first things you hear, but I’ve never seen it happen. I don’t know that it can’t happen, but I’ve never seen it happen. So it’s certainly not as common as people would say it is.”

Along with false positives, many people seem to believe that if one person in a batch of people tested is found positive for drugs, then everyone else in that batch will be required to test again.

 “We have individual bottles for every single person that comes here to test,” said Mrs. Onjel Gambrell, 23d Wing drug testing program administrative manager. “Those bottles are packaged and sent to our lab where they are tested individually. Once we shut down the [computer] system at the end of the day, it resets itself. The computer doesn’t recognize that someone tested yesterday, so it’s going to use that same pool of names again and select [randomly] again.”

When an Airman does test positive for drugs, then it’s up to OSI to determine what led up to the positive analysis. Spangler said many factors can come into play.

“Sometimes positive urine analysis come back and they’re for prescription medication that were legitimately prescribed off base and it just wasn’t updated in their military records,” said Spangler. “We gather the facts and put them into an ‘easy to digest’ format to provide to the commander. They’re the one who makes the decision on what happens to the Airman with the input of our [Staff Judge Advocate] folks.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the Airman to know what they’re putting in their body,” said Spangler. “However, if we’re able to substantiate that the Airman didn’t knowingly or willingly ingest a controlled substance then that obviously is a factor in the commander’s decision.”

Not only do commanders have the final say in personnel’s positive tests, but additionally they have the power to order unit-wide urine analysis.

“If a commander wants to do a unit sweep, they can, that’s their right,” said Gambrell. “Those have nothing to do with our random testing. It’s just a commander’s request that we honor.”

Gambrell also said aside from the planning and date a unit sweep will take place, DDR is an open book.

“DDR is not ran off our personalities, it’s ran off [Air Force Instruction] 90-507,” said Gambrell. “As long as we’re following that AFI, we will always be legal and our [facts] will always stand up in court because we did everything per the AFI, the way it’s supposed to be.”

With procedures following AFI 90-507, Gambrell’s statistics showcase DDR’s success.

“My positive [urine analysis] rate is under one percent,” said Gambrell. “That’s really good, especially when you have over 4500 people being tested.”

“We just ask that you come here, be professional and do what you were told to do. Call us and ask us instead of spreading rumors and making the situation worse than what it needs to be. We don’t do batches and we don’t call you because you just returned from leave.”