Holiday festivities bring reminder to drink responsibly

PETERSON AFB, Colo. -- The holidays are often a time of overindulgence - eating lots of decadent foods, overspending on presents and, occasionally, drinking a few too many.

As calendars fill up with Christmas and New Year's parties, officials here are reminding servicemembers to drink and act responsibly. Too much alcohol, they say, can often lead to fights, arrests for drunk and disorderly behavior, alcohol poisoning and, even worse, DUIs.

While drinking-related incidents aren't exceptionally high here, members of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program counted seven incidents last year around the holidays, including two DUIs. They'd like to see those numbers even lower this year.

"It isn't a huge problem here, but it is something people need to keep in mind," said Maj. Nicholas Marshall, officer in charge of ADAPT and a clinician with the 21st Medical Group. "You're going to so many parties. Inevitably, you'll end up drinking more than usual."

DUIs can be particularly costly for servicemembers. Besides receiving tickets, paying fines and having points deducted from driver's licenses, Airmen are also punished by their commanders. In some cases, a DUI can be a career-ending incident for servicemembers, Major Marshall said - even the best ones.

"I've heard from so many supervisors who said, 'But he was such a good troop. I never thought he would do this,'" he said. "But, the bottom line is, once you have alcohol in your brain, it doesn't matter how smart you are or how good a troop you are. At some point, you're just not able to make good decisions."

Local police will be out in force this year, looking for DUIs at seasonal holiday checkpoints. On base, the 21st Security Forces Squadron will be, as usual, observing drivers for signs of intoxication at the gates as well as patrolling the base, said Lt. Col. Thomas Allison, 21st SFS commander.

"We have a much higher density of patrol coverage than you will find anywhere in the civilian sector," Colonel Allison said. "This allows us to keep a constant eye on traffic around the base and intervene if we see something out of the ordinary, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."
Holiday revelers who wish to avoid the back of a patrol car should always use a sober wingman to act as a designated driver and monitor behavior, Major Marshall said.

"People should have someone with them who's not going to drink, who will be able to make decent decisions and make sure people don't do stupid stuff," he said.

Airmen should also keep their limits in mind. Realistically, most people are going to drink, Major Marshall said, so ADAPT stresses drinking moderately rather than not at all. The Air Force recommends the 0-1-3 guideline of zero drinks if driving, one drink per hour and three drinks maximum per sitting.

"It's so easy to remember, hopefully people can have that in their mind as a little motto," Major Marshall said.

For those who forget to follow the guideline, Drive a Servicemember Home offers free rides, no questions asked, to servicemembers who call 55-NO-DUI.

Senior Airman Abigayle Tabita, DASH's Peterson representative, said during the holidays the volunteer-run program will be available on its usual Friday and Saturday nights as well as during the 21st Space Wing's social. Several units have requested DASH's services for their individual holiday parties as well.

While DASH volunteers don't see a large spike in drive-home requests over the holidays, Airman Tabita said the program could still use some volunteers to help during the season as well as the rest of the year.

"We get about the same calls over the holidays as we do on other seasons," she said. "(But) volunteers are needed year round since we can't operate without support from the base population."

Anyone interested in becoming a DASH volunteer can contact Airman Tabita at 556-1121. Unit leaders interested in requesting DASH's services for their holiday parties can e-mail the program's scheduler at armedforcesdash@cheyennemountain.af.mil