Airman recounts DUI experience

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- March 27 seemed like any other Friday night. My coworkers and I wanted to go to the Bitburg Beer fest, so I drove to a friend's house to drop off my car and wait for a ride. While there, I had three beers and a couple shots of Jagermeister.

My designated driver started drinking, so I knew I needed a taxi to go home. We got bored with the beer fest and proceeded to drink elsewhere. After several more drinks and tequila shots, my friend and I decided to send our "designated driver" home because she could no longer sit on her bar stool. My friend said I could crash at his house, but I decided to stay because I was having fun. This was around midnight.

That is the last thing I remember until I woke up in my car.

At 3 a.m. and still groggy, l looked around wondering where I was. I got out of my car to see where I was. I was down the street from my friend's house where I was supposed to stay the night. I fumbled with my phone trying to call the base law enforcement desk, but I was dialing the DSN number. Shortly after, the polizei showed up and put me into their car.

It had started to sink in that I must have tried to drive home. It wasn't until later I realized I had been involved in a car accident.

We waited for the ADAC truck to arrive and tow my car, then the polizei drove me to the Bitburg Krankenhaus where my blood was drawn. At Bitburg Polizei station, I was turned over to the 52nd Security Forces Squadron and was given a breathalyzer test. My blood-alcohol content was 0.21. Back at Spangdahlem, I was supposed to make a statement but was too inebriated. I had to wait for my first sergeant, who showed up around 7 a.m.

I was driven back to my friend's house to meet coworkers who had to stay with me until I went to talk to our acting commander, then take me to 52nd SFS to be issued a ticket for driving under the influence. I had to stay at a coworker's house that weekend for suicide watch.

I felt numb for the next few days. No one would talk to me at work. I had to change the DUI signs at the gate. The first few days, a coworker drove me to the gate, but then I was moved on base and rode the bus to change the signs. The bus does not stop at the back gate, but a kind person who did not know me would stop and pick me up. That really touched me.

I went to see the executive commander and command chief. It was worse than what anyone could prepare for. I started going to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment clinic. Talking with other people who are, or have been, dealing with the same issues as I am helped a lot. I learned so much in the classes, such as how I don't need to drink to avoid problems or drink out of pure boredom.

July 21 was the day of my trial. I lost two stripes and two-thirds of my pay for one month, and was sentenced to 15 days in confinement. Around 5 p.m., I arrived in Mannheim and was handcuffed and searched at the guard station before entering the prison. I was then led into a briefing room where I counted everything in my possession. A guard led me to the shower where I was searched in front of the guard and my first sergeant. I was then officially in the prison's custody. I was placed in handcuffs, leg irons and a belly chain and escorted to solitary confinement. New prisoners are placed into solitary confinement for 72 hours for suicide watch before being released into the general population.

I took a long look around my new, small room with a bed and a toilet-sink combination. A guard would check on me every 20 minutes while I stayed in solitary. The next morning, I started processing into the prison - medical, prison identification picture, mental health and finance - all in full restraints. July 23, a Thursday, was hair cut day - also done in full restraints. Sitting down for a hair cut was not easy. The barber seemed nervous, shaking as she cut my hair.

I was released into the general population, and other inmates automatically disrespected me because I was in the Air Force. When I told them I was there for 15 days, they laughed at me and said it was a waste of time. I slept with one eye open the entire time while I was mixed with the general prison population.

I worked kitchen duty to get away from the other inmates and stay out of trouble. While working kitchen duty, I was allowed outside to take out the trash and eat before other inmates. The work was hard but we dealt with it. Each night, I checked my pillow for spit and counted my razors every time I closed my locker. Guards counted us before bed, and we counted the cutlery before leaving kitchen duty.

Days later, I moved back to solitary confinement. I forgot how small the cell was, though the second time there were other inmates to talk to.

I was released to my first sergeant and commander Aug. 1, and we traveled back to base. On Aug. 3, I went back to work as an Airman. This is my story; I hope you won't make it your own.