DUI - the choice is yours

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Ernest Nielsen
  • Air Reserve Personnel Center first sergeant
In my 11 years as a first sergeant I've processed 32 DUI/DWI cases both stateside and overseas. Last year, society and I lucked out with zero DUI/DWI cases. I've become quite proficient at processing the disciplinary aftermath including two courts-martial, but my efforts and many others have not been as effective in preventing drinking and driving by getting into a person's "decision-cycle" beforehand. This failure is not based on a lack of trying by society at large and our military society.

Society at large tried a noble experiment called "Prohibition" but it failed miserably. Am I for prohibition? No. But I am for a little perspective. Why are cigarette ads banned from TV and yet TV is bursting with exhortations to drink? Alcohol is far more devastating to society--not only from disease, but also vehicle accidents. Alcohol is also far more immediately deadly than tobacco to innocent bystanders. I've seen first hand the results of excessive alcohol use: fights, domestic violence and sexual assaults. Of course tobacco is a killer, but until society views the new alcohol ads during the Super Bowl with the same distaste for cigarettes, then we as a military society will have an uphill struggle competing against the media blitz that glorifies drinking to our personnel.

Our military society comes from the larger society and is influenced by it, but we hold to higher standards than the morals of the marketplace. We are entrusted with the security of the nation and must be self-disciplined to carry out our mission. Our military society has adopted a variety of methods to curb drinking and driving with varying degrees of success: squadron formations, changing gate signs, Articles 15, court-martials, driving revocations, gate handouts, Airmen Against Drunk Driving, Chiefs Happy Cab, identifying "At Risk Individuals," and awarding down days for going 30 days without a DUI/DWI.

All of these tools have their place, but in the end the reason why people drink and drive is because they choose to.We do not get to choose everything in our lives; randomness touches all of us. But amid all of the lack of choices in our life, we do choose how to live; honorably or dishonorably, with purpose or adrift, act with rational moderation or emotional instant gratification. Self-discipline is all about rational choices over emotional desires for instant gratification. We not only have a choice over how to react to our emotions, feelings and urges, but we are morally obligated to exercise that responsible choice for the sake of society at large and our military community.

Every Air Force Core Value is ultimately a choice. If you cannot make the responsible choice, you will be held accountable.