Studying DUIs in the new year

  • Published
  • By Cmdr. Anthony Tranchita
  • 319th Medical Operations Squadron Behavioral Health Flight commander
As a member of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) team, and someone who has spent close to 10 years of my life on military bases, I feel compelled to speak up about the run of DUIs here last year.

Last calendar year, we had 14 DUIs at Grand Forks AFB. That's not a typo - 14 DUIs! One out of every 100 Airmen on this base had a DUI in just the last year, more than double the number in 2012 (6). We only made it 11 days before we had our first for 2014.

According to the Base Legal office, of the 14 DUIs, the Air Force had jurisdiction over six of them. The aggregate punishments imposed in those cases were:

Total numbers of stripes lost: 7
Total days extra duty: 45 days
Total days restricted to base: 30
Total forfeitures imposed from Article15 punishments: $2,906
Pay lost due to reduction in rank: $10,180.95
Total civilian court fines imposed (for off-base DUIs): $4,401.50
Total cost of forfeitures, civilian court fines, and pay lost due to reduction in rank: $17,488.45.

Several military members were also sentenced to suspended jail time, community service, or other forms of punishment as a result of an off-base DUI. In five of these off-base cases, the DUI later became part of the basis for administrative discharge from the Air Force.

As you might imagine, I am often asked "Why do we have this spike in DUIs?" It's a question I ask myself many times as well.

How can it be that we have an Airmen Against Drunk Driving program, which will pick up people anywhere, anytime, no questions asked, and yet people still get behind the wheel? Why do I hear supervisors, first shirts and chiefs offer again and again to pick up people when they shouldn't drive, yet people end up in in their dress uniforms with their whole chain of command reporting to the Wing commander? How can it be that we have a sign by the gate that keeps people updated of the most recent DUI, and yet people don't think twice? How can it be that we are in a time when careers are on the line due to Force Shaping initiatives, and yet people roll the dice with their careers, not to mention lives?

The truth is, I have gone to 25 years of school, much of which was focused on the study of human behavior, and I still have no answer to the above questions. No satisfying answer anyway.

What I can tell you is that most of the DUIs have two factors in common: irresponsible drinking and a failure in the moment to apply the Wingman concept. I rarely see it as appropriate or helpful to tell people to not drink, but the truth is that after drinking we are all capable of making very stupid decisions.

Furthermore, in almost all of the cases there was someone else there who could have intervened, most of the time. Another Airman, who as a responsible Wingman, could have helped to prevent all the damage listed above.

We've all been trained to take care of our Wingmen, sometimes it is not comfortable in the moment, but it takes the fortitude to stand up for what's right and call AADD rather than let someone get behind that wheel.

I would bet that if you ask any of the people with the 14 DUIs "Do you wish you had stuck with the plan you had before you drank too much to make a good decision?" or "Do you wish someone would have taken your keys?" they would all say yes to both questions.

(Capt Benedict Woit, 319th Air Base Wing legal office, contributed to this report.)