When will consequences of drunk driving sink in?

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Daisey Forsyth, 27th Special Operations Communications Squadron knowledge operations manager, visits the tombstone of a fellow Airman who lost their life in an alcohol related incident near Cannon Air Force Base, May 20, 2011. Air Commandos are reminded of the risks involved with drinking and are urged to never let anyone drive while intoxicated. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Daisey Forsyth, 27th Special Operations Communications Squadron knowledge operations manager, visits the tombstone of a fellow Airman who lost their life in an alcohol related incident near Cannon Air Force Base, May 20, 2011. Air Commandos are reminded of the risks involved with drinking and are urged to never let anyone drive while intoxicated. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- About four years ago, one of my closest friends lost her life in an auto accident. She had gone to a club with a group of people, and they all had a bit too much to drink. When the club closed down for the night, they got into the car and started driving home. At some point the driver lost control of the vehicle and collided with another motorist.

My friend was thrown out of the vehicle upon impact. Her body was brutally mangled, and she lost her life instantly.

The other people inside the car survived with various injuries, and the driver of the other vehicle was later transported to a nearby medical facility in critical condition. I never found out if that person survived.

As the weather gets warmer and the summer months approach, people begin to socialize and drink more with little to no regard for their own well-being or the safety of others around them.

It's no secret that people often turn to liquor when there isn't much to do. But that doesn't mean its ok to drink irresponsibly. Putting your life on the line is bad enough, but endangering the lives of others just so you can enjoy an evening is not excellence in all you do.

As military members, we are held to a higher standard. We must present ourselves as professionals and act as ambassadors for our nation. Yet, recently it has consistently become a trend to read about local military members facing punitive charges for alcohol-related incidents.

Whenever I read these things directly referring to Cannon personnel, I can't help but think to myself "what ever happened to service before self?" No one is saying that military members cannot enjoy themselves during their time off; however, doing anything without a plan or course of action to ensure everyone's safety is not reflective of the Air Force core values in any way.

One of the most selfish things a person can do is willingly and knowingly put themselves and others directly in danger by drinking irresponsibly. If you know you are going to drink and you haven't designated a sober driver to pick you up prior to becoming intoxicated, you have already placed yourself in a very compromising situation.

Furthermore, providing minors with alcohol, regardless of the reason or rationale behind it, is illegal and very dangerous. Bonding with your troops, making new friends, or celebrating achievements may seem like reasons to turn a blind eye to underage drinking, but integrity first means doing the right thing even when nobody is looking.

I often think back to the events of that night years ago when my friend lost her life. She had invited me out with her that night. I was going to drive her and her friends to the club and act as the designated driver, but work kept me from doing so.

It devastated me to think that I could have prevented her losing her life. I couldn't believe that nobody in that car had stayed sober to ensure everyone made it home safely. At Cannon, I've been given the opportunity to act as a last resort for fellow Air Commandos in need through Airmen Against Drunk Driving.

As president of the AADD organization, my fellow cabinet members and I work diligently each week to ensure that personnel throughout the base are on-call ready to pick up anyone whose initial ride home didn't work out.

We are always looking for more active volunteers! Visit the Cannon website for more information regarding the AADD program.
Again, the program is a "last resort" and should not be anyone's only method of getting home. The volunteers on-call and the dispatcher are Air Commandos at every level: enlisted, officer and even civilian. Anyone within the Cannon community can use the program by calling 575-784-2233.

Wanting to make better decisions and be more responsible is an individual goal and effort. Those of you that have the desire to make positive changes in your life will do so. The rest will dismiss the information until it's potentially too late. Don't wait until something like losing someone you care about happens to realize how serious this issue really is.

Part of Cannon being resilient means having the ability to recover quickly as a force; that recovery process isn't an easy one when you lose someone due to recklessness or the carelessness of others. Air Commandos are an invaluable asset to the mission here; don't put yourself in situations that might lead to your wingmen feeling the loss of one man down.

Editor's note:  For Hurlburt Field AADD: If you're a DoD-ID cardholder, have exhausted all resources and are in need of a ride home, contact AADD at 850-884-8844. For more information about the program, contact Airman 1st Class Rachel Whitlatch or send an email to hurlburtaadd@hurlburt.af.mil.