SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
As the holiday season approaches, it’s important while Airmen celebrate to remember driving under the influence has many repercussions and for Airmen those consequences can be serious.
Drinking and driving affects more than just the driver, it jeopardizes the safety of other families and any passengers in the vehicle. Capt. Kelly Fennell, 50th Space Wing chief of military justice, said the 50th SW Judge Advocate office offers legal assistance to Airmen involved in civil matters including alcohol-related motor vehicle incidents.
“There are many consequences associated with drinking and driving,” she said. “If found guilty of driving while impaired, Airmen are likely to lose driving privileges on the installation. It does not matter where the DUI occurred.”
Any military punishment associated with driving while impaired is determined by the Airman’s commander.
“Punishments often include administrative paperwork, forfeiture of pay, loss of rank, extra duties and even discharge,” she said. “The maximum punishment associated with receiving a DUI, if you injure another person, is a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and confinement for 18 months.”
Discipline related to drinking and driving is highlighted under Article 113 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, drunken or reckless operation of a vehicle, aircraft or vessel. However, punishments are not limited to Article 113 as civilian courts can levy charges as well.
“I would highly encourage self-reporting to [the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program] to receive help expeditiously,” Fennell said. “Not only does drinking and driving have career implications but you’re taking other people’s lives in your hands and putting them in [harm’s way]. As the military were called to protect our citizens, not endanger them.”
The impact of receiving a DUI goes beyond administrative punishment, it can also affect an Airman’s financial status.
“Receiving a DUI can have a hefty fine attached to it and too much debt can have [negative] implications [when it comes to] a security clearance,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kathy Blake, 50th Comptroller Squadron and Wing Staff Agencies superintendent. “When you’re saturated in debt, it can [affect your] quality of life, too. [With this added debt] you may fall behind on rent and bills, and financial irresponsibility is a real problem.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes is more than $44 billion. Additionally, insurance companies can refuse to provide coverage to anyone who caused an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident as the cause would be considered negligent, Fennell said.
“A DUI can be extremely stressful,” Blake said. “Once you add the financial consequences and the possible jail time associated with it, it can ruin your life. It’s not worth the risk. If you’re drinking utilize the many resources available to avoid drinking and driving. Be smart.”
Staff Sgt. Robert Cook, 50th Space Wing noncommissioned officer in charge of occupational safety, said driving impaired directly contradicts the core values and the whole Airman concept.
“Driving drunk affects our credibility as Airmen and it is completely selfish,” he said. “How are we displaying integrity, placing service above ourselves and being excellent if we’re driving while impaired?”
According to the CDC, every 50 minutes in the United States, someone dies in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident, that’s about 29 people a day.
“Don’t do it,” Cook said. “It’s so easy to prevent. It can ruin your career, it’s not worth it. Alcohol impairs the mind and affects decision making, no matter how fine you think you may be, play it safe. Get a taxi or have a friend give you a ride.”
If impaired, contact Airmen Against Drunk Driving at 552-A2D2 for a ride or call 567-HELP to find a helping agency at Schriever AFB.