3 Aug 2011

Officer investigated for allowing soldiers to drink

8:54 am on 3 August 2011

A former commander of New Zealand troops in Afghanistan is under investigation for permitting soldiers to drink, the chief of the Defence Force says.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Fox was in Dubai on his way back from a six month stint in Afghanistan when the incident happened.

The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, says the officer gave permission for some people to go out to drink on the way back from Afghanistan, when they were in a Muslim country, and still on a dry mission.

General Jones told Morning Report that Lieutenant Colonel Fox also had a drink, but was not in a drunken state. He was being investigated for breaking normal procedures in allowing the soldiers to consume alcohol.

Lieutenant Colonel Fox is the second senior officer to come under scrutiny recently in relation to alcohol.

The commander of HMNZS Te Mana, John Butcher, has been relieved of his duties after the incident on a shore visit at Port Vila, Vanuatu, in the last fortnight.

General Jones says there were problems with Commander Butcher's personal conduct, which was unacceptable, and the officer has been instructed to write a letter of apology.

General Jones says the officer's future in the Navy is now under consideration.

He says there is a problem with alcohol in New Zealand society which the military is taking seriously.