A commando found unconscious from a suspected drug overdose in Afghanistan has prompted defence chiefs to order 300 elite soldiers undergo drug tests.
The commando, whose courageous actions helped save a mate in the war-torn country, was found unconscious in his room at the Australian base at Tarin Kowt last Friday.
He is now in a US military hospital in Germany in a serious condition with his family and girlfriend by his side.
A search of his room uncovered a bottle of pills and white powder thought to be an opiate. Both are being tested.
All 300 members of the Special Operations Task Group, including commandos, members of the Special Air Service Regiment and support units, are to undergo drug testing.
Defence head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston announced a commission of inquiry into the incident on Thursday.
It will examine the Australian Defence Force prohibited substance testing program and investigate the extent of the use of drugs by those in the field.
The commando and other members of his unit had attended a function the previous night after returning from the field.
"Because of the stresses of the operation they were on, the commanding officer authorised a small function where alcohol was consumed. That was the extent of it," Air Chief Marshal Houston told reporters in Canberra.
He said he had held no concerns about the use of narcotics by Australian soldiers up to now.
"We haven’t had a single incident over the whole time we have been in Afghanistan," he said.
"But we have done targeted testing against other substances where we have suspected that there might be some use."
That related to the use of steroids, with disciplinary action taken against some soldiers.
Initial reports showed there was nothing untoward in the conduct of the soldier who had served with distinction during two deployments.
"His actions on one occasion certainly contributed to the saving of the life of one of his mates. We are talking about somebody who has performed superbly in operations," Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
Nothing unusual had emerged in various psychological tests conducted before and during his latest deployment.
Defence took a zero tolerance approach to the use of illicit drugs and conducted random drug testing of ADF personnel.
"What we need to look at is how it is being implemented on the ground in Tarin Kowt," Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
He said there were a lot of drugs readily available in Afghanistan.
"There are a lot of narcotics grown there and they are manufactured there and this is a place where narcotics are more freely available than probably anywhere else in the world," he said.
A former commando officer, who served in Afghanistan, said he had never encountered the use of illicit drugs by special forces soldiers.
"I was in the navy years ago before I transferred to the army and there used to be a bit of drug use, marijuana. I got out of the navy in 1993 and I have never seen drug use in the military since," he said.
"I was really surprised to hear that, and especially for it to be a commando."
Australia Defence Association executive director Neil James said this appeared more likely to be an individual incident not indicative of a broader drug problem in defence.
He said Afghanistan was awash with drugs but there were actually limited opportunities to acquire drugs because of limited contacts with local people.
Mr James said defence random testing showed less than one per cent positive tests, compared with the community 18-30 age group rate of up to 40 per cent.
"If you are getting your quotient of excitement through your job, then you don’t really need to get it chemically," he said.
ABSOLUTE MADDNESS Decriminilisation legalisation is the only way to beat the Corruption of the black market, ie Cia drug running to make profits to
run their black operations then if your son or daughter is silly enough to buy the drugs they ship in they get arrested /fined and or goaled/jailed if your a yank,…
Ie a double tax, 1st tax when you purchase da substance then 2nd tax the fine when ya get busted.