23rd FS provides DUI-free insight

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The 23rd Fighter Squadron reached a milestone in December 2008, and the squadron has continued to build upon that milestone since then. On Dec. 8, 2008, the 23rd FS Fighting Hawks counted 2,323 days since their last incident of driving under the influence. Almost a year later, as of Dec. 3, the 23rd FS has reached 2,686 days and counting without incident - one of the longest running in the 52nd Fighter Wing.

Some squadron members view it as the result of continuous combat focus and living within a culture of responsible choices.

The removal of any Hawk because of a DUI or alcohol-related occurrence would equal the loss of an essential combat asset not easily replaced, and more importantly, the loss of a family member. Because of this, Hawks encourage the wingman spirit on and off duty- looking after each other as members of a close-knit combat squadron.

"As fighter pilots, we mission plan, brief, execute and debrief for a common goal - put iron on target and come home alive through solid mutual support. On the ground, we stress the same concept," said Lt. Col. Mike Lay, 23rd FS commander. "All Hawks - from the airmen basics to the commander - understand how vitally important they are to our team and mission. They internalize personal responsibility, not only for their actions, but also the actions of every other Hawk."

"That's Hawks taking care of Hawks," he said.

The Fighting Hawks offer this advice to units seeking to reach a similar milestone:

· Never let someone in your unit go out drinking alone after hours. This sounds simple, but it happens all the time. This will require you to get to know people more closely, to include their families and hobbies.

· Pre-designate one sober driver per five people for every occasion alcohol is involved. Arrange who will ride in each car for the return trip, and bring money to cover a cab ride just in case. DUIs often occur when individuals feel they are out of options.

· Have a card in your wallet with the numbers of your chain-of-command, command post, emergency services and friends. Hawks even note taxi fares on the card. The people on that card would rather pick you up than let you drive under the influence of alcohol.

· Accept the sound advice of those not drinking, even if they are younger or junior in rank. Don't let pride or ego prevent your wingman from helping you end the night at the right time and get you home safely.