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NORFOLK, Va. — In 1913, Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels issued a revolutionary order: no more alcohol on board ships. According to official Navy myth, sober sailors mocked their boss by nicknaming their coffee — the strongest drink still allowed on board — a “cup of Joe.”
A century later, current Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is one-upping Daniels, ordering the installation of breath-test machines on all ships and submarines, as well as on Marine Corps bases. One can only imagine how he will go down in naval lore.
According to Mabus, the breath tests are not intended as a crackdown measure but rather to help identify sailors who might be struggling with booze. The alcohol testing is part of a broader new Navy program designed to improve the physical and mental well-being of those having difficulty coping with the stresses of a decade of war.
By detecting those who show up to work with a drink or two still in their system — especially on more than one occasion — the Navy will be able to intervene and offer counseling before things escalate, he said.