Naval officers' careers could sink after drug test

The sailors are stationed on board nuclear submarines based at Naval Base Kitsap.

Six officers were busted for illegal drugs. Now they could be kicked out of the Navy.

A routine check tipped off investigators and led to the drug sting.

The sailors are stationed on board nuclear submarines based at Naval Base Kitsap.

Content Continues Below

Veterans say the stakes are too high for anyone on board a nuclear submarine to be using illegal drugs.  Those at VFW Post 239 say that is true for the entire U. S. military.

It is an elite assignment, joining the crew of a nuclear submarine, plying the world's most dangerous waters to keep this country safe.

So the fact that six officers, all submariners, were caught using illegal drugs, is stunning to those here who have served.

David Ainge says he was tested for drugs just about every month of his 20-year career, the beginning of which, he spent on board a nuclear sub.

"On a submarine, it's more critical because everybody needs to know everybody's job," he said. "Everybody needs to know how to save the boat because we're under the water. So if anybody's doing drugs and they're not in the right frame of mind, they might not do the right thing."

Indeed, a junior officer tested positive for an illegal drug during a random test, sparking a Naval investigation that exposed five others.

Two officers on board the USS Pennsylvania, Lieutenant junior grade Riley Hoffman, an 18-year veteran, and Lieutenant Alexander Egber, a five year veteran.  They were court-martialed and pleaded guilty.

Another Lieutenant James Hendren, also a five year veteran, served on board the USS Michigan. He, too, was court martialed and pleaded guilty to drug charges.

"By gosh all you need is one mistake," said Pete Cholometes, "and it would be a big one."

Cholometes is retired U.S. Air Force.  He says it doesn't matter what branch of the service one is in.

"Absolutely not," he said. "It should be zero tolerance whether it's enlisted, officer or otherwise."

Three of the officers are so junior they were disciplined by their commanding officers.    The three officers who were convicted face varying punishments.

But the consensus here is that these allegations will ultimately sink their Naval careers.

More news from KIRO 7