Thursday, May 19, 2011

TOP STORY > >Cost of a DUI: Part One Loss of Life

By Staff Sgt. Nestor Cruz
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

(Editor’s note: This is part one of a series of articles on how DUIs impact Airmen and the mission.)

“No DUIs, No Excuses, Drink Re-sponsibly.”

These words embody a no-nonsense, zero-tolerance attitude toward drinking and driving and its consequences. But in today’s culture of mentoring Airmen through one-on-one interaction and informative briefings, DUIs still happen.

A total of 585 people in Arkansas were killed in vehicle accidents in 2009, 168 or 29 percent of those fatalities were alcohol related, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“There are numerous factors that contribute to Airmen driving under the influence,” said Tech. Sgt. Tanya Miller, 19th Medical Group mental health flight sectionchief. “Knowledge and acting responsibly are the keys to avoiding DUIs. Also, Airmen need to know that after three drinks their judgment is impaired, whether they realize it or not. Therefore, they are likely to make choices they normally would not make.”

For some, one drink could be too much. The repercussions of a DUI vary, but most mean bad news for survivors.

Tech. Sgt. Omar Cuebas, 19th Force Support Squadron assistant section chief of lodging operations, believes Airmen should be held accountable for their actions if involved in a DUI incident.

“The repercussions can be endless. As a supervisor, I would ask myself what could have I done to prevent [DUI incidents within the squadron],” said Sergeant Cuebas. “If the unit and I did everything possible to educate the individual Airman, then it’s on them to face the consequences.”

If an Airman dies in a DUI incident, the void they leave behind is felt by leaders for a very long time.

“If one of my Airmen died while driving under the influence I would certainly be very upset at the loss of a valuable member of my military family,” said Sergeant Miller.

“The emotional toll could last for the rest of some of the co-workers’ lives.  It may cause added stress, nightmares, lack of self confidence, sleep disturbances, drinking more themselves, anger issues and many other mental health disorders,” she said. 

With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, wing leaders want everyone to not only have a safe holiday weekend, but they want them to have a safe, DUI-free summer.

Setting the conditions for success means supervisors and Airmen should focus attention on responsible alcohol use by highlighting programs in place, such as calling 987-AADD (2233) or a supervisor when an Airman’s had too much to drink.

Part 2 in this series will highlight the financial consequences and will appear in next week’s Combat Airlifter.

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