DUI: Former NCO, Airman shares his story

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Listen to my story. Do you want to be in my shoes? After serving almost 12 years in the United States Air Force, I have amassed several lasting memories; but one particular night will live with me forever.

On the evening of Nov. 24, 2010, a few friends and I decided to go to a hookah bar in Wittlich, Germany. Our intentions were to relax and have a good time. My friends and I spent a little more than four hours sitting together, laughing and talking about everything from places we visited in Europe to work responsibilities to childhood experiences.

During that time, I decided to have only two drinks because I had big Thanksgiving Day celebration plans set for the next day. Those drinks only cost me 10 euro, but I would soon find those two drinks would end up costing me much more.

After those few hours in the hookah bar, my friends and I gathered outside for about 15 minutes to discuss plans for the next day. Once our plans were set in stone, we all went our separate ways. I grabbed the keys out of my pocket and jumped in the car, and my friend got in the passenger seat. In only a matter of seconds after leaving the establishment, I was pulled over by local authorities. I knew I consumed alcohol, but I also "knew" I had nothing to worry about because I only had two drinks and hadn't even finished the second one.

The local authorities pulled up to my window and asked me politely to step outside the vehicle. The lead officer asked me if I would be willing to take a breathalyzer test because he had reason to believe I had been drinking. I agreed, still calm and without worries because I "knew" I was OK. I "knew" there was no way I was above or remotely close to the legal limit to drive. As a 230-pound man, I assumed there was no way one and a half drinks could put me over the legal limit.

What I thought I knew turned out to be completely wrong.

After viewing the results displayed from my breathalyzer, the police asked me to get in their vehicle and told my friend to follow us to the police station. It was at this point reality stepped in, and my life and my career flashed before my eyes.

I recalled the numerous hours spent preparing for my upcoming test for what I thought would be my year to be promoted to technical sergeant. Prior to this day, I spent slightly less than one year at Spangdahlem Air Base and had earned the credibility and respect from my peers and leadership within my flight, as well as around the squadron. Prior to this day, I submitted my NCO of the Year package to my supervisor, and some believed I was the clear winner. Prior to this day, many things I planned for my future, plus the opportunities and successes that were falling into my arms ended.

After spending roughly two hours in the local police station trembling from head to toe, 52nd Security Forces Squadron members arrived to transport me to the base. Upon arrival, they immediately searched me and took away all the items in my possession. After they stripped my pockets, they proceeded to do something I thought would never happen in my life - they asked me to put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me.

A drive from Wittlich to the base generally takes 15-20 minutes, but that night it felt like hours. Once I arrived at the 52nd SFS building, the mountain of paperwork began again. After about an hour, a senior master sergeant from my shop arrived to take custody of me. The moment he walked in and we made eye contact, the bleak reality that began to set in was enhanced even more. Here was a senior master sergeant who I admired, respected and looked up to -- a person who thought highly of me -- was now looking at me in handcuffs.

Little did I know at the time this was probably the easy part -- darker days were yet to come.

The days and weeks that followed consisted of visiting my group commander once, my squadron commander three times and my first sergeant so many times I lost count.

Up to the night I decided to throw my career away by grabbing drinks and keys, I had an impeccable record for the past eight years. After that night, nothing I worked extremely hard for mattered. Because of my actions, I received an Article 15, demotion to senior airman and forfeiture of more than $1,000. After losing my NCO status after serving more than 10 years, I now also face with issues for high year of tenure.

All of these problems because of two drinks.

Every day, I find myself scared to answer the phone because I'm afraid the first sergeant is going to be on the other end ready to deliver bad news. This experience is one I would not wish on my worst enemy. I feel it's my obligation as a former NCO and a fellow Airman to share my story in hopes that no other Saber walks in my shoes.

Since that day in November, those drinks that cost me only 10 euro at the time have cost me more than 700 euro in taxi fares to get to and from work. Those two drinks cost me more than $1,000 in forfeiture of pay. Those two drinks cost me thousands of dollars from the money I lost as a result of my demotion.

My message is simple: if anyone ever finds himself or herself in a position such as mine, I suggest that person pass the keys to someone else because one drink is too many.