HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

One poor decision can ruin evening, life

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Some people get a good night hug at the end of a romantic date.

Others get a good night kiss.

But, July 28, an Airman from Team McConnell wasn't so lucky. His date ended with a DUI, a charge for driving under the influence of alcohol.

A senior airman class took his date to a bar for dinner and a couple of drinks on the evening of July 27.

After leaving the bar, the Airman drove his date to her house, where the couple watched television and had a few more alcoholic beverages.

Things seemed to be going well. Then, the servicemember decided he was OK to drive home.

"I didn't feel drunk, but I had a little buzz. So, I called a couple of friends to see if I could stay with them. I couldn't get a hold of them," the Airman said. "I felt OK, so, I decided to drive home, which was the worst thing I could have done."

The Team McConnell member left his date's house around 3 a.m. He headed to his dormitory building on McConnell to catch a couple hours of sleep before reporting for a 24-hour shift at his job, which was scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. Only, he never made it to work.

Instead, the Airman, who was 20 at the time, was apprehended by 22nd Security Forces Squadron members at the base main gate and charged with drinking and driving, underage drinking and, later, being unfit for duty.

"If you drive onto base after drinking, there is a 100 percent chance you will be caught. Security forces members are well-trained and on the lookout for drunk drivers," said Lt. Col. Jeff Smith, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Safety chief. "The local police are on the lookout too. In fact, roughly 18,000 people are ticketed per year by Kansas police for alcohol-related reasons."

The Airman received an Article 15, a demotion, 15 days of extra duty, an unfavorable information file, the revocation of his on-base driving privileges and a suspended demotion to Airman as a result of his decision to drink and drive.

He also had to appear before his squadron commander and the wing vice commander in full service dress uniform to explain himself.
"It's not worth it," the, now, airman first class said. "Plus, for the next six months, if I make any more mistakes, I will lose another stripe."

In addition, the Airman had to attend the Air Force's Alcohol, Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program, a requirement for all servicemembers involved in alcohol-related incidents.

"Typically, the Airmen here who have gotten in trouble for drinking and driving didn't plan to drink the night they were caught. Or, they were folks who didn't intend to drive after drinking, but, for numerous reasons, decided to drive and felt they were OK," Colonel Smith said.

Team McConnell's most recent DUI occurred Aug. 30, and five team members have gotten DUIs so far in 2006. However, that's 23 percent fewer than the 22 members who received DUIs by this time in 2005.

"People are still getting DUIs, but we are doing drastically better than before. Awareness is the reason," Colonel Smith said. "We've made a strong effort to teach folks about DUI prevention. During briefings and presentations, we have encouraged Airmen to be wingmen and look out for each other."

Team McConnell members who plan to go drinking should devise a plan to get home safely - before they go out for the night, Colonel Smith said. However, if a person's plan falls through, he does have options.

People in a pinch can call Airmen Against Drunk Driving, an organization of volunteers that offers those who have been drinking rides home on Friday and Saturday nights. People can reach AADD representatives at 759-4663, or 759-HOME.

On the nights AADD isn't available, people should call a friend, a co-worker, a first sergeant or even a commander. Commanders and first sergeants can usually be contacted through the command post. People can reach the command post at 759-3100 on nights and weekends.

To help people remember who to call, the last four digits of the command post's after-hours phone number correspond with the wing's policy on responsible drinking -- three drinks per night, one drink per hour, zero underage drinking and zero tolerance for DUIs.

"The effects a DUI can have on your family, your unit and your career should be enough to deter you from drinking and driving," Colonel Smith said. "But, if they're not, think about the risk you take of killing or injuring yourself or someone else when driving under the influence of alcohol."

As an additional incentive, Team McConnell has an opportunity to earn a "goal day," or day off, for every 60 days it goes DUI free.

It has been 29 days since the last DUI.