Any drinking means no driving

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- After 29 years, it's still as if it happened yesterday. And, memory means a lot at my age.
I was 18 years old and driving home on a rainy night. I had my own car; gas was under a dollar; my 8-track tape player was playing, and I was going to see the world at the expense of the Air Force.

A set of headlights appeared in my lane, and with no time to react, we impacted. The hood folded. The engine pushed through the dashboard, and I was slammed into the windshield.

Blinded by the blood pouring from my head wounds, I climbed from the wreckage. I stumbled to my feet only to collapse and wake up in the hospital.

The officer said the other driver was drunk and was going at least 80 miles per hour when he slammed into me. It was my second accident with a drunk driver in less than a year.

I healed and set out on my career as a security police law enforcement specialist. At every chance, I would seek out the drunk drivers to see them punished while developing a zero tolerance reputation.

Fast forward ten years to my own revelation where the cuisine of unit barbeques flowed from a keg.

I intended to drive knowing I was not drunk. I was well trained in the effects of alcohol and much too smart to drive drunk. The unit had received portable breath tests, and I was curious to see how they worked but unsure if I had drunk enough to register a reading.

I was in denial when the reading showed I was "over the limit." I was upset when my lack of situational and self awareness almost put me in a position I so adamantly and vehemently condemned others for. If my self-awareness was so far off, had I unknowingly driven drunk before?

I thought about the many driving under the influence apprehensions I had made and how the drivers almost always felt they were not drunk, even as some poured themselves out of the car and low crawled to me.

These situations have convinced me law enforcement alone is not the key to DUI prevention, the primary tenants must include education and prevention. This takes a concentrated effort by all Airmen, which is why the wing commander has asked for an action group to work in the education and prevention arenas.

In the next couple of days a call to arms will sound in search of motivated individuals to assemble, discuss and implement strategies. This action group will do more than pay lip service in prevention and education after an unfortunate incident. Instead, it will be a concentrated effort on many fronts to reach everyone in the wing. If you desire to become involved, I encourage you to see your first sergeant or unit chief.

We are all working hard, and there is no reason not to play hard. But when you drink, no matter the amount, your judgment is clouded. If you accept this, you'll avoid having to see the commander with your career on the line or looking across the jail cell at a guy named "Bubba" who thinks you're sexy.

If you think you're always in control when you drink, you're just a bad statistic in waiting--with life-threatening consequences for you and the innocent.

Follow the only plan known to work; any drinking means no driving. I challenge the wing to have a safe summer with no more DUIs this year.

The key to any success is that even if we stumble, we get back up and finish with the same determination as when we started.