Impact of DUI, supporting your wingman

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant & Col. Sal Nodjomian
  • Air Armament Center commander and 96th Air Base Wing commander
Every day we see the tremendous capacity for excellence all Team Eglin personnel possess and demonstrate. Our Airmen continually perform at a high level while balancing their responsibilities to their families, our country and themselves. Your dedication to each other and the mission during these times of high operational tempo, while we reorganize and restructure the base is impressive.

At the same time, one of the most serious challenges currently facing our Eglin community is the dramatic increase in Driving Under the Influence incidents and arrests. Drinking and driving infractions are up three-fold from this time last year and it's only a matter of time before we see another alcohol-related traffic fatality. We must reverse this trend.

Over the past three weeks, we have highlighted this issue on our website and base newspapers. If you visit Eglin's official site you will see a story that addresses the personal and professional impacts a DUI can have on any individual. The second story is a first-hand account from one of our Airmen who chose to share his personal story with us. He specifically addresses what has happened to him as well as his family and the impact it has had on his career opportunities. The third article is a strong commentary from our Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment chief that highlights just how significantly alcohol abuse can affect any of us.

Drinking and driving violates the core values to which we hold ourselves and, as good Wingmen, we must act before a problem develops, not after it has occurred. To make this change, we must understand the impact drinking and driving has on individual and unit performance. When supervisors and Wingmen confront the problem, we can avoid the likely career impact of the misconduct caused by problematic drinking. Remember, early signs of a potential alcohol problem include lateness to work, poor performance, hangovers, dehydration, poor PT performance, chronic absences and moodiness.

Knowing how alcohol impacts performance is not enough. Continue to educate yourself and those you work and socialize with on alcohol and how it impacts people. Know what a standard drink is and how to develop a plan for consumption. Be aware of and participate in alcohol-free activities. Guide yourself, your Wingman, and those you supervise to these activities. Support long-term self-improvement and not short-term "fun" in the form of bad habits.

We can also develop the skills needed to reduce DUIs. Have a plan for yourself and those around you before you drink. Recognize that having a Wingman is not an excuse to drink heavily or act in uncontrolled ways. Your Wingman's job is to support you; it is your job to act appropriately. Avoiding a DUI requires a good plan, responsibility, and a good Wingman.

Drinking and driving affects military and civilian alike and it's independent of ethnicity, race or creed. Likewise, it doesn't just affect the individual who overindulges. We have all seen military and civilians lose rank, money, clearance, jobs, careers, freedom, and even their lives due to drinking and driving. We've also seen how it affects families and other innocent victims. Be proactive. Look for signs of trouble and identify who may be struggling, refer them to people who can help, and be there to support them.

We appreciate your awareness and--more importantly--direct and immediate involvement in helping us curb this unhealthy trend at Eglin. You all do tremendous work for our Air Force and our country. Let's not allow this sort of incident to continue or diminish the great work we achieve at Eglin.