By Lt. Col. Brian Daniels
19th Maintenance Group
Some years ago a wise “cowboy poet,” singer Travis Tritt, wrote and performed a song called “10 Feet Tall and Bulletproof.” While the song and the video were funny and presented in a lighthearted manner, it made a great point about how alcohol makes us feel invincible.
For you young troops, who are asking who is Travis Tritt and what does the song say, here is a little excerpt: “Well, I start to feel like Superman; then I pick a fight only to find out that my opponent’s holding kryptonite; you’d think I’d learn my lesson, but I’m still paying dues each time I drink and start to think I’m 10 feet tall and bulletproof.”
Now imagine a video that shows a rather rotund redneck man looking into a mirror and seeing a great-looking, muscular guy who, in his eyes, is 10 feet tall and bulletproof.
Everyone who has drunk alcohol surely experienced looking at life through “beer goggles,” and the view is usually much brighter than reality. To illustrate this point, here are a couple of examples that I have either witnessed or are aware of.
First, I had a roommate in college, Bob, who was tall, muscular and was usually among the biggest guys in the room. He was laid back and pretty much minded his own business when he went out to the clubs or bars near the college. I don’t exactly know why, probably due to his size, but he was routinely targeted by drunken guys, who thought they were 10 feet tall and bulletproof. They picked fights with him, presumably to impress their friends or a young lady. What they did not know, but quickly found out, was that Bob was a black belt in multiple martial arts disciplines and was extremely skilled in the art of defense. Bob never seriously hurt anyone, but I witnessed embarrassed guys pick themselves up and have to walk out with their tails between their legs because in a drunken state, they thought they were bigger and better than they were.
The second example was from a news story I saw when I was stationed in Florida. Florida has the intercostal waterway with many nice houses and boat docks lining the shores. Anyone familiar with Florida knows that there are sharks along the coast, and they occasionally make their way into the intercostal waterway. A young man who had been drinking all day on one of those boat docks decided that he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof, so he jumped from his dock onto the back of a very large bull shark that was swimming past. Suffice it to say, the shark was tougher, and it was the last thing this young man ever did.
Here is the so what. In the nearly two years I have been stationed here, there have been a large number of alcohol-related incidents and most, if not all, have been a result of young Airmen drinking too much and making terrible decisions. It is not uncommon to hear that our Airmen have a BAC of .2 or more when tested. This is a terrifying part of command as alcohol lowers inhibitions and contributes to Airmen making horrible decisions that they would have never considered while sober.
The “it won’t happen to me” mentality will ultimately catch up to you. If you’re lucky, it will not result in an unrecoverable mistake that costs you your life or the life of another. Despite what you might think while intoxicated, you are not 10 feet tall and bulletproof.
There are so many options including supervisor or peer intervention, AADD and local taxi services (to name just a few) that are available to help every Airman make the right choice when you drink. The key is making a plan before you drink and sticking to the plan even if it costs a few dollars.
Finally, I think the use of the term wingman is overused in many instances, but it is our duty to protect our fellow Airmen and step in before they do something that could affect the rest of their lives. So, before your buddy decides to pick a fight with Bob or jump on the back of a shark or drive their 4WD on local soccer fields or wake up on someone else’s lawn or fall into a bon fire or argue with a cop at a bar or, on a more serious note, cheat on their spouse, sexually assault someone or take a life in a car…be a leader and intervene before your wingman makes a fatal decision.