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Pair of USS Ronald Reagan sailors sentenced after pleading guilty to drug charges

Sailors man the rails as the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) departs Busan after a goodwill port visit. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/U.S. Navy)

Two sailors who worked with the USS Ronald Reagan’s nuclear reactor were sentenced after pleading guilty last month to charges stemming from a 2018 investigation into a drug ring that involved 15 sailors.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Ethan D. Strandberg and Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew W. Miller, both nuclear machinist mates, were reduced in rank to E-1 and discharged from the Navy for bad conduct in exchange for pleading guilty to drug distribution charges. Both must also serve short terms in confinement.

According to a Dec. 7 pre-trial agreement, Strandberg pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and two counts of wrongful use or possession of controlled substances.

Strandberg admitted to conspiring with another person to distribute methylenedioxymethamphetamine — also known as MDMA or ecstasy — while “onboard the USS Ronald Reagan and at or near Yokosuka, Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan” between January 2017 and February 2018.

The second person’s name was redacted.

Miller pleaded guilty to one count of wrongful use or possession of controlled substances. He admitted in a Dec. 13 pretrial agreement that he’d distributed lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, several times near Yokosuka between January 2017 and February 2018.

As part of their plea agreements, Strandberg will spend 60 days and Miller will spend 30 days in confinement, according to Naval Forces Japan spokeswoman Cmdr. Reann Mommsen.

Three more Ronald Reagan sailors await court hearings in connection with this case. As part of their plea agreements, Strandberg and Miller agreed to testify against codefendants if called upon.

One unnamed defendant has completed an Article 32 preliminary hearing, and a second is awaiting one, Mommsen said. Article 32 hearings are used to determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify a trial.

The third defendant, Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Gevero, a nuclear electrician’s mate, is awaiting a special court-martial on a charge of wrongful use or possession of controlled substances, Mommsen said.

Ten other Reagan sailors received nonjudicial punishments in connection with the case, 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley said in November. Further information about those disciplinary actions was not publicly released, per Navy policy on administrative issues.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service has officially ended its investigations into the drug-distribution case, Mommsen said.

Japanese authorities had been involved early in the investigation when it was thought that the drugs were being sold to locals off base. They dropped their investigation in June.

Fourteen of the 15 implicated sailors were assigned to the Ronald Reagan’s nuclear reactor department, Keiley said in June. Those suspected of involvement were removed from those duties as the investigation got underway.

Keiley said in November that there was no evidence to suggest that the drug operation affected the sailors’ work.

“Propulsion plant operations are supervised by senior personnel,” he said.


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