Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seven Hill Air Force Base Airmen In Utah Separated For Smoking "Spice", Receive General Discharges

On March 26th, 2010, the Deseret News reports that seven airmen at Hill Air Force Base, Utah have been separated from the U.S. Air Force for using "spice". They will receive general discharges, which are less than honorable and can ban recipients from ever re-enlisting, but which leave the recipients still eligible for many veterans' benefits. The identity of the airmen has not been released. Spice is sold legally in smoke shops, but because it alters one's mental state when smoked, U.S. military members are banned from using it.

Eleven other cases of spice use are currently being processed at the base. Those 18 cases may be a minority of the 5,900 airmen stationed at Hill, but commanders want to advertise that spice use is not allowed on base or off. "We're going to be vigilant about rooting (users) out," said Col. Patrick Higby, commander of the base's 75th Air Base Wing. Col. Higby also said he is concerned about anything that will impact the Air Force's mission, in which pilots, aircraft maintainers and security forces play critical roles. "We don't want those individuals to be in any altered mental state," he said. "It's that teamwork thing: A team is only as strong as its weakest link."

Maj. Gen. Andrew Busch, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill, has issued an order prohibiting spice use among the base's military members. A similar order is in the works for civilian employees of the base, as well, said Capt. Graham Bernstein, assistant staff judge advocate in the base's legal office. The U.S. Air Force is so serious about this that they had the base's command chief publish the following article in the Hilltop Times base newspaper on March 18th:

I am writing this news article, which it hurts to have to write.

Since my arrival two months ago, we have been fighting drug use issues, so I thought I'd share with you an update.

This week we sent the first of the many soon-to-come Airmen out of the Air Force and off the installation as a civilian for the use of Spice. This one was sent away with a less-than-honorable discharge.

So Spice is the ticket ...your ticket out the gate!

The Uniform Code of Military Justice states the use of any mind-altering substance other than alcohol is strictly prohibited; Spice is exactly that prohibited substance.

Scarier yet, we don't know anything about Spice, its long term effects or what you will have to deal with later in life because of its use. Wow, what a chance to take with your future in so many ways!

My No. 1 concern with Spice is that it hurts our nation and its defense. We have no place for abusers of drugs; people's lives depend on our mental and physical fitness. So to ensure we maintain these attributes, we will put Spice users out of our Air Force and continue the business of national defense.

Team: Spice has no place in or amongst Team Hill. We are working hard to eliminate its presence and if you look around one day and someone isn't there because they used Spice it means we are doing our job. Please, let's make sure we all work together to keep our community strong and drug free.

Proud to serve,

Chief Master Sgt. David R. Nordel

What is "spice"? According to this post on, it's a new form of incense (also called K2) which can be legally purchased in many tobacco related businesses for anywhere from $25 to $50. It is a blend of herbs and extracts which are then laced with a liquid synthetic marijuana, reportedly 100 to 800 times the strength of marijuana. It can cause panic attacks, hallucinations, vomiting, and heart palpitations, and hospitalization may be required for treatment, although most users don't experience such extreme side effects. Some chronic Spice smokers have developed upper respiratory infections from their use of the substance. One story in Science Daily claims some brands of Spice can be addictive, triggering withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuance.

This discussion thread on provides more interesting information on the military's evolving policy towards Spice use. It appears a reliable test for Spice hasn't yet been universally deployed, which is why in the DN article, Col. Higby said they rely upon the honor system in which airmen will inform the chain of command about colleagues who use the stuff. USAF commanders are also authorized to pull dorm inspections at any time, which increases the risk of someone actually caught in the act, which will guarantee a discharge. United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) banned the substances in January 2010. The U.S. Marine Corps also formally banned the use of Spice and other similar substances in January 2010.

In this moribund economy, it is not worth it to get yourself tossed out the front gate early because you use Spice. It will also cut off a prospective employment option by denying you the option to ever re-enlist. It's also selfish to jeopardize the mission and your mates by using this stuff. If you're using, get off it now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How can the military detect the presence of "spice?" I thought it didn't come up in a urinalysis? Would it take a written admission to be prosicuted?