A Paralegal’s Perspective

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Being an Airman at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, can be both challenging and rewarding, but one of the challenges we can face is a self-inflicted one … the abuse of alcohol. The fact is, alcohol can be very dangerous when abused. Sometimes it feels like society has made alcohol the only accessory for a good time; but in the last year at the legal office I have seen what happens when the abuse of alcohol goes terribly wrong.

An example we see every day is the DUI sign at the gates. Since I have arrived at Whiteman that board has been unable to reach 60 days. In fact, in 2016, there were a total of 21 active duty DUIs. That number does not include our total force partners or civilians. However, as Col. John Nichols, the 509th Bomb wing commander, challenged us at his initial all-call, “we can do better.” The count so far this year is 10.

DUIs are only part of the story. Working in the legal office, I see the other impacts that the abuse of alcohol has on this wing. Over the last year, there have been 23 Article 15 actions where alcohol was a contributing factor. Of those 23 cases, 17 involved charges for an alcohol related offense. One recent case involved an underage Airman who got drunk at a dorm party. After the party, he decided to take a shower and fell asleep with the water running. When his suite-mate came home, he found water leaking into his room from the locked bathroom. Security Forces eventually got into the bathroom, where they found our under-age Airman still asleep in the shower, along with several opened beer and vodka bottles. The follow-up breath test showed the sleeping Airman had a .177% breath alcohol content. That’s over twice the legal limit of .08, which is only the legal limit if you are over 21.

Another trend I see is how alcohol contributes to serious misconduct. In 2016 and 2017, out of 17 courts-martial, 10 involved alcohol as a contributing factor. Courts-martial are no different than being charged with a crime downtown, and if found guilty, an Airman will have a federal conviction on their record (along with possible jail time, fines, reduction in rank, and discharge). Of the last four felony trials this office has prosecuted since March, alcohol was a significant factor in two.

Let’s face it; alcohol can prevent an Airman from making good decisions. If you are under-age,make the choice to not drink. If you are over 21, drink responsibly. Listen to family or friends if they warn you that you may have a drinking problem. Always have a plan for a safe ride home. Have a designated driver, and if thats falls through call Airman Against Drunk Driving (AADD). Their number is 660-687-RIDE (7433), and they are on call 24/7.

Be a good wingman. As wingmen we look out for our teammates at home and deployed. We can do more to prevent our teammates from becoming another briefing statistic at an all-call. Fight’s on!