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Hills army unit raided for drugs By NIGEL HUNT and IAN McPHEDRAN 23may03 UP TO seven soldiers face the sack in a new army drugs scandal involving a specialist South Australian unit.
The headquarters of the 16th Airfield Defence Regiment at Woodside was raided by military and civilian police on Tuesday.
Drugs were found and dozens of soldiers were tested for drugs.
The specialist regiment is equipped with high-tech surface-to-air missile systems to provide ground or ship-based defence against hostile aircraft and missiles.
The unit played an important role in the war against Iraq.
Acting on an internal tip-off, MPs and seven SA police officers converged on the base as a lockdown order was issued by the commanding MP, Captain Nick Ross.
The raid is the latest in a series of swoops on suspected illicit drug users in the military. Four other army bases have been raided in the past few months.
The operation was controlled by the MP contingent with civilian police in support.
State police searched several "off base" houses occupied by frequent visitors to the base but found nothing. The operation at Woodside continued for most of Tuesday, with comprehensive searches made of living quarters and recreation rooms and areas.
The searches uncovered several small quantities of dried cannabis.
During the search, groups of soldiers were chosen for urine analysis.
"The operation targeted individuals who were suspected. We had some knowledge of cannabis use by some soldiers," one source said.
A defence spokesman said the army was awaiting the results of the urine tests before taking further action.
"These investigations are undertaken to ensure that all units remain highly effective and able to carry out all tasks in a safe manner," the spokesman said.
None of the soldiers caught up in the raid was deployed in the war against Iraq.
The military police investigation will be completed before the end of next month.
"As this investigation is on-going it is inappropriate to make any further comment." the spokesman said.
The Australian Defence Force has a zero tolerance policy on drug use and offenders face instant dismissal.
Senior officers are concerned about the extent of illicit drug use within the forces and a series of raids has been conducted around the country to root out the problem.
Australia's 25,000 soldiers are likely to face random alcohol and drug tests under a new push to crack down on problem drinking and illicit drug use.
The tests, to be phased in, will start from July with random alcohol breath tests for soldiers on duty. Drug tests will be introduced over the following 12 to 18 months.
Legislation encompassing the alcohol and drug tests is being finalised.
More than 400 people work at the 16th Air Defence Regiment which provides ground-based air defence capabilities for the ADF.
The regiment operates two surface-to-air missile systems, the Rapier and RBS-70.
Units are always ready to move at short notice in support of the army's Darwin-based 3rd Brigade.