Airman ends 562-day incident free streak with DUI

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Craig Hess
  • 36th Communications Squadron
On Feb. 3, 2007, the 36th Communications Squadron had an incredible streak of 562 days without an alcohol-related incident. For a squadron of 173 people, that equated to a whopping 97,226 man-days without incident. It was an incredible record; one to be very proud of. 

By Feb. 5, the 36 CS was back down to a streak of one day without an alcohol-related incident because of a DUI at 4 a.m. the day before -- a Sunday morning. It was the first alcohol incident I experienced since taking command in July 2005. 

Late in the evening on Feb. 3, a squadron member who was a noncommissioned officer, decided to go downtown for "just a few drinks" but had no real plan to get home safely, no wingman to lean on, and the drinks turned out to be more than just a few. 

He then made a very poor, alcohol-impaired, decision to get behind the wheel of his car. 
Minutes later, the good times turned bad and he was on his way to spending his first night ever in a jail cell courtesy of the Guam Police Department. 

As drunk as the member was, he was sober enough to realize the instant he was apprehended by local police that his Air Force career was probably over. 

All the things we discuss within the unit about drinking responsibly and having a good game plan before the drinking starts were crystal clear in his head at that moment. He was sober enough to know he really screwed up. 

His mistake was not so much the amount of alcohol he consumed as much as it was his failure to simply plan for a safe return home before he started drinking downtown.
The member was obviously more than disappointed with his lapse in good judgment; not only because of the discipline he knew he was about to receive, but also because he let himself, his unit, the wing, and the Air Force down. 

The disciplinary actions included, among other things, the loss of a stripe and, due to force shaping and manning cutbacks, his departure from the Air Force earlier than planned. A promising career was ended. Not only did he lose out, but the Air Force is about to lose a very proficient technician. It was a very stiff price to pay for a momentary lapse in judgment. 

Six weeks later a second squadron member, a senior airman, had an alcohol incident.
This time the incident was on base and involved enough alcohol to result in the member passing out and being unable to show for duty the next day. 

The member had to be taken to Navy hospital because he was in such bad shape. He recovered and was released but the situation could have turned out very differently resulting in serious injury and even loss of life. His career is also now marred by an Article 15. 

Both members mentioned above read this article before publication and were fully supportive of it. They, like me, feel that if this story can in any way help prevent a fellow Airman from having a similar incident then writing this article was worth the time. 

If this article can get an Airman to think before he or she proceeds to go out on the town, or even on base, and drink without a wingman or some sort of a plan then relaying the story was worth it. 

There was no magic to our 562 day streak; it was part luck I'm certain. But I like to think that a bunch of engaged unit leadership and supervisors who discussed the topic often with their subordinates was a big contributing factor. 

I'm as proud of my unit as I ever have been despite suffering the disappointment associated with the two incidents. The 36 CS has done a remarkable job of drinking responsibly and watching out for each other. We take great pride in our track record but take even more comfort in knowing that we can depend on each other to show up safely the next duty day and we're not a threat or danger to ourselves or others when we choose to drink alcohol. 

If you're an active duty Airman on this base, you know the Team Andersen "Words to Live By." 

More than a slogan, the words "I can save my own life" need to be internalized.
The life you save means the world to someone.