A little goes a long way
By Airman Ryan Conroy, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 28, 2013
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- The first thing to go is your judgment.
Without judgment, the motives behind our decision making process are flawed.
All it takes is three glasses -- apparently.
I felt fine throughout the night, enjoying my time, eating dinner, sampling a glass of wine here and a glass there. I certainly felt sober enough to drive and it could have been the last time I did.
Let me back up. I was invited on a trip to a local winery as part of an event to teach Airmen the obligation of drinking responsibly. Airmen were encouraged to enjoy free wine and dinner courtesy of Gelisi's Winery in San Quirino with the peace of mind we had a safe bus ride home. At the end of the night, the police were on hand to issue breathalyzers to show the effect of alcohol on each individual's body.
Leadership and medical personnel stressed the consequences of poor decisions made with alcohol, the effects it could have on our careers and could possibly have on our lives.
According to 31st Security Forces Squadron reports and analysis, military members stationed at Aviano were charged with 40 DUIs with 19 resulting in vehicle accidents in the past year.
I felt like they were hitting great points, deterring all those other people who felt they were above the law.
But, I wasn't really listening. If I was I would have heard them say "one drink is equal to 1 1/4 oz. of 80-proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 4 oz. of wine." Or "one drink is equal to a .03 blood alcohol concentration in an hour."
I was indifferent to their facts because I felt like I could never make the mistake of judging my alcohol intake improperly. I know how alcohol affects my body, I know my limit and I would never take the wheel if I felt that I couldn't.
It turned out I was mistaken.
The night was coming to a close and a line began to form for the breathalyzer test. I was feeling confident knowing I only had three glasses of wine and I would test well below the appropriate amount.
The results were surprising.
The legal BAC to drive in Italy is .05.
I registered a BAC of .06.
My body was telling me I was good to drive but the machine told me something completely different. In a similar situation without a bus ride home, I would have thought I was ok to drive risking my career, my life and more importantly, other's lives.
According to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, depending on the circumstance, the consequences for drinking and driving can range from losing a stripe, forfeiture of pay, Article 15 and extra duty to a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and 18 months confinement.
When a DUI results in death, the consequences could escalate to involuntary manslaughter with a maximum punishment of 10 years confinement. What the UCMJ doesn't mention is the lifetime of guilt and remorse an individual will experience after killing another person.
Three glasses of wine is all it took. A little went a long way. From now on, regardless of the amount of alcohol I consume, I will have a plan. If that plan falls through, I will have a back-up plan and if that falls through, I have Airmen Against Drunk Driving. There is no excuse. If I drink at all, I'm not driving.
This education has taught me a valuable lesson. Instead of becoming an Airman who made a grave decision, I've become a part of the movement teaching against it.