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(photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Wolfe)
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Underage drinking can ruin career

Posted 1/24/2008   Updated 1/24/2008 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Tong Duong
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/24/2008 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The flashing red and blue lights combined with gawking onlookers makes it hard for the stumbling underage Airman to concentrate while performing a field sobriety test. 

"It's hard to speculate why an underage Airman chooses to drink, but it's often peer pressure or trying to fit into a group," said Chief Master Sgt. Mitch Stippel, 56th Fighter Wing command chief. "While we can only guess at all the reasons Airmen drink, statistics have shown underage drinking carries over into alcohol abuse and associated irresponsible behavior both in the long and short term lives of those individuals.
Therefore, our wing takes a hard stance on this illegal behavior."

 According to Tech. Sgt. Jason Aucoin, 56th Fighter Wing safety technician, the consumption of alcohol by a minor is not only illegal, but extremely dangerous.

 "Youth who consume alcohol are more likely to be involved in traffic fatalities, violence, unsafe sex, suicide, educational failure and other undesirable behaviors, than their peers who don't drink," Sergeant Aucoin said. "Those who start drinking before the legal age are four times more likely to have serious alcohol-related problems later in life than those who wait until age 21." 

Underage drinking is also a health risk, according to 56th FW Safety. Adolescents are vulnerable to alcoholinduced brain damage, which contributes to poor performance at school or work. In addition, youthful drinking is associated with an increased likelihood
of developing alcohol abuse or dependence later in life.

Underage drinking is not only responsible for the destruction of adolescents' health, at Luke it contributes to the destruction of government property, such as the dorms. "Most damage happens on weekends," said Staff Sgt. Anna Anderson, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron dormmanager. "When we come to work on Monday, beer cans and alcohol bottles are often strewn across the lawns; beer boxes and food containers overfill trash cans. The thing that gets me is the main receptacles are only yards away. It's unfair to our bay orderly Airmen who have to pick up the trash." Measures have been taken to reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents in the dorms. 

"The installation of security cameras and first sergeants walking through the dorms have discouraged drinking, resulting in less damage," said Tech. Sgt. Rodney Marks, 56th CES dorm managers NCO in charge.

According to Master Sgt. Curtis Crigger, 56th Security Forces Squadron superintendent, patrolmen are dispatched more frequently during peak drinking hours such as weekends, holidays and sporting events to curb the number of alcohol-related incidents in the dorms.

 When a complaint is called in, the security forces squadron dispatches a patrolman, who talks to the Airmen involved and checks to ensure everyone is of legal
drinking age.

 "If an Airman is underage or over the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content, we administer a field sobriety test. If they fail, the Airman is brought to the detention center, and a BAC test is performed. The patrolman writes a report for the 56th FW Staff Judge Advocate office, first sergeant or supervisor and refers the charges based on the individual's level of intoxication, behavior and the patrolman's

The charges and disciplinary actions that Airmen receive vary case-by-case, according to Master Sgt. Heide Banks, 56th SFS first sergeant.

"As a general rule, we don't hand out the same punishment to every Airman," Sergeant Banks said. "You don't punish an Airman who excels at work and has not previously been in trouble the same as an Airman who has a history of poor job performance and disciplinary infractions." 

Underage drinking offenders can receive a Letter of Counseling, Letter of Reprimand, an Article 15, or a courtmartial if there is another offense committed with the underage drinking. However, if a member is charged by civilian authorities the member will not be punished under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice but will be subject to the civilian prosecution system. Although the member's actions may not be charged under the UCMJ, the member may still receive administrative discipline. 

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment center is one program available to help Luke Airmen. 

"Most people who walk through these doors are required to do so by the commander due to alcohol-related offenses," said Airman 1st Class Laquia Norment, 56th Medical Operations Squadron mental health apprentice. "However, some Airmen seek help on their own and others are medically referred.

" When Airmen come to the ADAPT center, an assessment is done to see if they qualify for treatment.

"There are specific criteria to meet before we can diagnose them, but that doesn't mean we won't provide education to those who don't qualify," Airman Norment said. "Coincidentally, we are in the same building as mental health, which is staffed with licensed clinicians to help Airmen. Most people who abuse alcohol have an underlining issue." 
The goal of the program is to guide those in need to the road to recovery. 

"We don't handle administrative actions or punishments," Airman Norment said. "We are here to help Airmen, not punish them."

 For more information on ADAPT, call (623) 856-7579. The center is located inside the Mental Health Clinic, Bldg. 317. Career

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