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Merchant meets with base leadership for DUI solutions

Ensuring a military member’s awareness of the limitations and consequences of alcohol abuse and driving under the influence can have on a career could prevent them from crossing the line of another drink or the decision to get behind the wheel.  To learn more about the consequences of and alcohol abuse, call Alcohol, Drug Abuse Program and Treatment at 883-8373.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Ensuring a military member’s awareness of the limitations and consequences of alcohol abuse and driving under the influence can have on a career could prevent them from crossing the line of another drink or the decision to get behind the wheel. To learn more about the consequences of and alcohol abuse, call Alcohol, Drug Abuse Program and Treatment at 883-8373. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- "We're here to identify solutions to our DUI situation," Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant said to a room of more than 70 enlisted and officer leadership from across the base May 11.

The meeting brought together Eglin's joint-service leadership after two more driving under the influence arrests over the weekend were added for a new high of 16. The DUI rate reaching half of 2011's total in less than five months, prompted swift actions all around base to include commander's calls and a series of articles and public service announcements in the base papers.

After a few serious words from Merchant, the leadership group began informal discussions brainstorming root causes, telling anecdotal testimonies from other bases with similar issues and focusing on real, achievable solutions.

According to the slides displayed at the meeting, Eglin is projected to surpass its 2011 total of 38 by as many as 10. The numbers are not skewed to a particular age group or demographic either. The DUIs are up in all categories, according to Maj. John Batka, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment chief.

The informal discussions lasted for about four hours with idea threads about consequences, punishment, supervision, Airmen against Drunk Driving, community involvement and empowerment of the enlisted ranks continuously brought up.

Merchant pressed for a clear way forward coming out of the meeting, so delegates volunteered to take up the solutions offered during the discussions and analyze the feasibility and provide the general with a possible path.

The general made it clear something had to be done and this was just the first of possibly many meetings to attack the increasing trend on base.