Alcohol Issues Working Group, AADD work together to put brakes on Robins alcohol related incidences

  • Published
  • By Holly Birchfield
  • 78 ABW/PA
Robins has been working hard to ensure members of the base community are safe when it comes to alcohol related issues. Officials are taking measures to decrease the number of incidences of members driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The Alcohol Issues Working Group, which is comprised of 10 representatives from the base's many helping agencies, is looking to see what more it can do to curb people's tendency to get behind the wheel when they're under the influence.

Senior Master Sgt. Tim Delaney, first sergeant in the 78th Security Forces Squadron who was recently named as the AIWG chairman, said the group has done its share of giving people tools to make sound decisions about responsible drinking.

"AIWG was created a couple of years ago due to an increase in DUIs, underage drinking, and (other) alcohol-related incidents," he said. "It's a fluid group with a never-ending mission of addressing new ways to educate (Airmen about alcohol and its consequences) to deter alcohol-related incidents, and encourage Airmen to be more responsible with their drinking."

According to on-base statistics, there were 34 DUIs at Robins from October 2005 to September 2006. From October 2006 to September 2007 there were 41 DUIs at the base. In October 2007, there were eight DUIs, double the amount in October 2006. The increase has left many people at Robins scratching their heads.

Senior Master Sgt. Rob Hipple, a first sergeant in the 330th Combat Training Squadron and first sergeant adviser for Airmen Against Drunk Driving, said pinpointing the root cause of the DUI fluctuation is hard.

"It's a tough problem because whenever you analyze all of the information, it seems like there's no common thread," he said. "The majority of the folks involved are 24 years and younger, whether it's underage drinking incidents or DUIs. That seems to be the trend."

Sergeant Hipple said while the 78th Air Base Wing leadership spoke out to young Airmen at recent commander's calls, the problem continues.

"Part of it is that people think it won't happen to them," he said. "They think they can get away with it. If you look at someone who's DUI and tries to drive through the base gate, that's just either pure stupidity or they think they can get away with it. I think that's part of the problem."

Sergeant Delaney said his group is still looking for answers.

"We've looked for a common thread (for the cause of DUIs)," he said. "We've examined the thing to death in the AIWG and in lots of other areas like the Community Action Information Board. Even with the recent DUIs, we've looked for a common thread and it's not linked to deployments. It's not linked to age. We've tried to (tie) it to the stress of deployments or stress of the holidays, but we're not finding that."

Sergeant Delaney said recent budget cuts that have slimmed Airmen's entertainment options on base may have some effect on Airmen's drinking habits.

"When you look at our base, what do we have for (Airmen) to do at night?" he said. "Once they get home, there are 400 Airmen in that dorm. They hang over that balcony and try to figure out what to do. They look out in Warner Robins and the only thing they can find is a club."

The NCO said programs like the Airman's Ministry, which is sponsored by the Base Chapel, provides Airmen a place to go for fun without alcohol, but those who prefer to drink shy away from such entertainment.

Sergeant Delaney said AIWG has looked at several ideas, including creating a taskforce within his group to address that issue more specifically, the possibility of moral contracts between units' leadership and their Airmen and getting commanders more involved in knowing what their Airmen are doing after hours. He thinks Robins should put more emphasis on the Wingman program.

"With many of these DUIs, they're with someone who knew them or was with them or has seen them (and) did not take a moment out of their life to say, 'Maybe you should take a taxi home. How are you getting home?'" he said.

In the end, it comes down to Airmen making better choices, Sergeant Delaney said.

Airmen Against Drunk Driving is one tool that has been in place since 2005 to help Airmen and civilians get home safely when their designated driver plan fails.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson, AADD president at Robins, said the program calls for Airmen to volunteer to use their personal vehicle and gas to get people home without incident.

"It's a totally volunteer program for Airmen of any rank to give rides to people whose initial plans to get home fall through," he said. "We're not to be abused by people who just call us first. We're there for the people who have a plan, but it falls through and they have no other way to get home. That's what we aim to do."

AADD volunteer drivers meet each Thursday at noon at the Wynn Dining Facility to exchange the program's three cell phones and discuss happenings from the previous week.

Sergeant Johnson said AADD has advertised its service both on and off base, but limited funds make any additional marketing nearly impossible.

Sergeant Delaney said combating DUIs is a battle Robins must continue to fight.

"It's a never-ending battle," he said. "The only thing we can do is keep hammering away at what we're doing and try to find new solutions."