Holiday drinking comes with avoidable dangers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joshua K. Chapman
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airmen planning on visiting home this holiday season are probably excited to reunite with families, where they'll have the chance to bicker over turkey drumsticks, share experiences and stories from this past year, and for many, enjoy a glass of wine or two with parents, grandparents and siblings. But while a relaxing glass with the family may be of little concern for most, issues arise at decision time.

By the time the night has come to an end, you should already have planned for a place to rest your head. As nation-wide statistics indicate, drinking and driving is not safe.

"Airmen need to have a plan," said Chief Master Sgt. David Nordel, 92nd Air Refueling Wing command chief. "It's such an important step. Institutionally we can't afford mistakes where alcohol's involved--neither can humanity as a whole."

One sobering statistic: drunk driving makes up more than 40 percent of all driving fatalities every year in Washington State. Indeed, every 45 minutes a person is killed as a result of drinking and driving according to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Web site, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about drinking and driving.

"[More than] 90 percent of all disciplinary infractions include alcohol use by one or more people involved in an incident," said Chief Nordel. "That number includes incidents involving domestic violence, drinking and driving, obstruction charges, etc. Worse still, 40 percent of those incidents occur in conjunction with a three-day weekend."

Airmen who decide to drink and drive should know this: the punishment is severe. "We have a zero tolerance policy toward drinking and driving at Fairchild," explained Chief Nordel.

So what does that mean for Airmen? Commanders at all levels have final say as to what punishment an Airman will receive. Depending on the type of Airman and his job performance, punishments will range from losing base driving privileges to additional duty, forfeiture of pay to loss of rank, non-judicial punishment to administrative discharge or worse.

"I've heard a little of everything," said Chief Nordel. "I've heard: I've had the least to drink, so I'll drive; I'm most sober, so I'll drive; I'll be your wingman (or I'll be responsible)--after which that Airman will go out and drink anyway--it's all ridiculous."

The bottom line is that the Air Force wants to see all of its Airmen return home safely. "We don't care how you get home, as long as it's in a safe matter. It's important that people have a good mixture of time and rest before stepping into their vehicles and driving home from a weekend with the family," said the chief.