Know your threats; counter them with a good plan.
By Col. Greg Champagne, Commander, 131st Bomb Wing
/ Published August 02, 2012
WHITEMAN AFB, Mo -- We all had previous lives and experiences prior to entering the military. I was a police officer in the Greater St. Louis area. I gained much experience in dealing with people in unusual circumstances and much of the activity I dealt with was the lack of "personal accountability". When dealing with the public, there was always a reason of why it was not "my" fault. Do we obey our laws because we do not want to be caught, or do we obey these laws because it is the right thing to do? We in the military set the example of what society expects from its citizens and Air Force core values reflect this belief. As a wing commander, one of my responsibilities is dealing with airmen who lack personal accountability. We have airman arrested for DUI multiple times every year. As I pull into Spirit gate each morning and see the airmen walking who received a DUI, it is like a punch in the gut. What did they not understand, where was their wingman, and how did WE fail them?
In America, the consumption of alcohol seems to be glamorized through advertisements, sports, and the overall acceptance of alcohol. During my 18 years as a commander I never met a person who said, getting a DUI was not so bad. Everyone was embarrassed, ashamed of their lack of personal accountability and it changed their lives.
Once you are arrested, your security clearance is pulled (you are now a liability to your team), your name is in the local newspaper (not in a good way), your license is suspended (base privileges included), you have to hire a lawyer (not cheap), and you will always have a police record (after military service, most civilian employers will ask if you ever been arrested for DUI). And if you hurt anyone while under the influence, all bets are off; you will stand a good chance of seeing jail time.
As a young aviator I learned to always be prepared for a threat and to counter those threats. I see drinking and driving as a threat and we need to counter it. If you are going out and alcohol is in the forecast, WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?
Waiting to figure out what to do later in the evening is not a plan!!! Thinking that I will have just a couple of drinks and time will be on my side, is not a plan. Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 will get you arrested and it does not take much alcohol to get to that level. Also, keep in mind when you are pulled over the police officer's observations are what seals the DUI case, the breathalyzer is additional evidence. If you're consuming alcohol have your plan before you depart for the evening. The Designated Driver (wingman) is a great plan. Whiteman has a great Designated Driver program and there is no doubt in my mind if you call anyone in your group they will take care of you. Last resort, there is always a taxi; I assure you a taxi costs much less than legal fees and your career.
There is absolutely nothing good that will come if you are stopped while driving after you have been drinking. Just because you have gotten away with drinking and driving in the past, file this in the area of pure LUCK. Don't be a statistic. You can be the best Airman in every way, but if you're arrested for Driving Under the Influence, all the hard work you have done will be for not.