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Black list exists for companies not minding p’s, q’s

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 'black list' or off-limits list for local businesses isn't just about establishments turning a blind eye to underage drinking, drugs and prostitution.

The Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board also investigates complaints about unfair commercial or consumer practices, racial and other discriminatory practices and areas with undesirable conditions.

The AFDCB here was established for the surrounding communities of Eglin and Hurlburt Field, and meets under Armed Forces Joint Instruction 31-213, according to board members. Its purpose is to determine if off-base establishments adversely affect the health, safety, morale, welfare and discipline of the Armed Forces.

"The board provides recommendation to the wing commander and the procedures are set in the AFJI," said Maj. Timothy Meserve, 96th Security Forces Squadron commander and AFDCB president. "Complaints by our community are one way for the board to review a business, but they can also be directed by the base commander. Single or repeated incidents occurring at night clubs, for example, can activate the board to review them."

The process of placing an off-base establishment off-limits begins with a complaint or report. The base commander has the authority to send a letter to the business to resolve the issue before contacting the board. If this can't be accomplished, then the board meets to investigate the report and then makes a recommendation to the installation commander, and the information will be published for base personnel.

Currently, there are no establishments in the northwest Florida region deemed off-limits, but one business is currently being reviewed, Major Meserve said.

"As part of our continuing effort to promote the health, safety, welfare and morale of our members, we've recently decided to take advantage of this mechanism to improve our community relations, which are key to improving our member's overall well-being," said Jacqueline Bouchard, 96th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate's Office chief of general law.

"Our goal in addressing these complaints is not to declare a business off-limits--in fact, that is the last resort. Instead, our goal is to ensure our members' health, safety, welfare and morale are protected. That's a pretty broad goal, but we're happy to take it on."
Major Meserve agreed, saying the goal of the board is to protect Team Eglin's personnel.

The board is made up 10 specialties ensuring equal representation. They include law enforcement, legal, public affairs, Equal Employment Opportunity, fire, safety, chapel, services, and both the health and environmental and alcohol and drug sections from the medical group, according to Master Sgt. Mark Wilson, 96th Security Forces Squadron S-5 superintendent.

For instance, "Military Equal Opportunity is charged to respond and clarify potential incidents of sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination against an individual or group because of their race, color, national origin, religion or sex," said Capt. Lorena Bell, 96th Air Base Wing MEO chief. "This includes discrimination based on the individual's birthplace, ancestry, culture or the linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group."

If an off-base establishment is allegedly exercising discriminatory practices, MEO or a complainant informs the installation commander and forwards all details to the president of the AFDCB, who is the security forces commander under Eglin's Supplement AACI.

"The qualities that make for good business relationships between Eglin and our surrounding businesses are that of open communication, awareness of federal equal opportunity and treatment policies and a willingness to openly address and resolve MEO-related issues," Captain Bell said.

There are 12 conditions that could be investigated by the board, including: 1) disorders and lack of discipline, 2) prostitution, 3) sexually transmitted disease, 4) liquor violations, 5) racial and other discriminatory practices, 6) alcohol and drug abuse, 7) drug abuse paraphernalia, 8) criminal or illegal activities involving cults or hate groups, 9) illicit gambling, 10) areas susceptible to terrorist activity, 11) unfair commercial or consumer practices and 12) other undesirable conditions that may adversely affect members of the military or their families.

Service members are prohibited from entering establishments declared off-limits according to the regulation and are subject to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

If a business is placed on the off-limits list, they can make a written request to the board to be removed from the list. The board will investigate the current situation and decide to remove that establishment from the list if the situation and area have improved, Sergeant Wilson said.