Irresponsible alcohol consumption degrades mission

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Sabers, this week's edition of the Saber Herald is designed to focus on two things: making responsible choices when consuming alcoholic beverages and preventing alcohol abuse. The Saber standard is excellence, and we achieve this when we watch out for our wingmen and carry out our missions.

Only when we make responsible decisions, both on and off duty, can we continue to earn our nation's trust. We all volunteered to serve, either in uniform or otherwise, and doing so honorably is how we earn and keep the trust and support of those we are charged with protecting.

Unfortunately, some Sabers are not making responsible decisions when they drink alcohol. Since I took command of the wing June 3, 2008, we have had more than 52 alcohol-related incidents. Out of these incidents, the most common trends are individuals who fail to plan ahead or those who don't know their limits.

Significantly worse than these incidents is the fact that 37 people chose to drink and drive. Worse yet, 22 incidents of driving under the influence resulted in a traffic accident that completely disabled the vehicle, caused more than $10,000 in significant damage, or resulted in significant injuries, some of which are permanent. When you consider there are more than 15,000 people attached to this wing, it is a small percentage of Sabers who are not doing the right thing. But each and every incident harms our mission efficiency here in the Eifel.

Driving around the Eifel is often treacherous; statistically, it is the most dangerous thing we do. Choosing to consume alcohol and drive drastically increases the chances that you will harm yourself or someone else; affecting not only you, but also your family, your unit, and the wing as a whole.

Because of the severity of these issues, I launched a task force - known as Saber Airmen Focused on Excellence and Responsibility - to help identify the issues that cause irresponsible alcohol consumption within our wing. Through the efforts of SAFER leaders and many of your survey responses and inputs, I'm proud to announce a three-pronged campaign to promote responsible decisions in regards to alcoholic consumption.

The first prong is education. All Sabers must understand the inherent dangers of alcohol and how it can hamper one's judgment. The effects on each individual are different, and it can have even more harmful effects when several people are involved. Knowing these effects can help people plan ahead and make responsible choices.

The second prong is providing responsible alternatives prior to or while consuming alcohol. I, nor other leaders, are against responsible alcohol consumption. We recognize that alcohol is part of the local culture, and the campaign will aim to provide safe and enjoyable events for all Sabers, regardless of whether or not they choose to drink alcohol.

The third prong - and fortunately, a very small one - involves applying swift, appropriate punishments for those who make poor decisions as a result of alcohol consumption. Individuals must understand the consequences of poor decisions, and have no question as to what could and would happen. According to the SAFER survey, about 18 percent of Sabers do not consume alcoholic beverages. Another 22 percent report having been involved in or observed an alcohol related incident. For these people, reminders about drinking responsibly will hopefully keep them from making poor choices.

But a large portion of these Sabers - about 58 percent - have not observed serious alcohol related issues first-hand, and may continue to consume alcoholic beverages recklessly. It is for these individuals that we must continue the second tier of the SAFER campaign - providing safe venues for entertainment and morale.

This edition of The Saber Herald highlights stories of fellow Sabers who have seen the damaging effects the misuse of alcohol can procure. You might be able to see yourself or a wingman in the stories presented. Perhaps you are of the same age group or rank. You may have driven on many of the same roads. Perhaps you know someone who was involved in one of the incidents. Either way, these issues affect all of us as part of the Air Force family.

It's important to re-emphasize that a majority of Sabers are making smart and responsible choices. It is only through continuous, vigilant dedication to make responsible choices by all members of this wing that we can accomplish our mission anytime, anywhere. Being a responsible Airman and reliable wingman helps all 52nd Fighter Wing people achieve the Saber standard of excellence.

Thank you for all you do every day!
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