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Spangdahlem hosts eye-opening alcohol awareness class

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Major Nathan Maertens, 52nd Aerospace Medical Squadron, instructs Airmen on how many alcoholic drinks are counted in one glass of beer during an alcohol awareness class Sept. 10 at the Brick House. This class gave Airmen a firsthand understanding of how alcohol affects their abilities. They also learned how to accurately count how much alcohol they consume.  Airmen who participated in the class drank one alcoholic drink an hour, not to exceed five, and participated in exercises testing their cognitive thinking, reaction time and balance. Airmen also participated as designated drivers for those drinking. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Natasha Stannard)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Major Nathan Maertens, 52nd Aerospace Medical Squadron, instructs Airmen on how many alcoholic drinks are counted in one glass of beer during an alcohol awareness class Sept. 10 at the Brick House. This class gave Airmen a firsthand understanding of how alcohol affects their abilities. They also learned how to accurately count how much alcohol they consume. Airmen who participated in the class drank one alcoholic drink an hour, not to exceed five, and participated in exercises testing their cognitive thinking, reaction time and balance. Airmen also participated as designated drivers for those drinking. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Natasha Stannard)

Airman 1st Class Adande Adrade, 52nd Fighter Wing Legal Office, buckles into a driving simulator to test her driving abilities after drinking alcohol during an alcohol awareness class Sept. 10 at the Brick House. This class gave Airmen a firsthand understanding of how alcohol affects their abilities. They also learned how to accurately count how much alcohol they consume. The driving simulator gives Airmen a chance to see how drinking affects their driving without the danger of driving in a real world situation. Airmen who participated in the class drank one alcoholic drink an hour, not to exceed five, and participated in exercises testing their cognitive thinking, reaction time and balance. Airmen also participated as designated drivers for those drinking. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Natasha Stannard)

Airman 1st Class Adande Adrade, 52nd Fighter Wing Legal Office, buckles into a driving simulator to test her driving abilities after drinking alcohol during an alcohol awareness class Sept. 10 at the Brick House. This class gave Airmen a firsthand understanding of how alcohol affects their abilities. They also learned how to accurately count how much alcohol they consume. The driving simulator gives Airmen a chance to see how drinking affects their driving without the danger of driving in a real world situation. Airmen who participated in the class drank one alcoholic drink an hour, not to exceed five, and participated in exercises testing their cognitive thinking, reaction time and balance. Airmen also participated as designated drivers for those drinking. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Natasha Stannard)

Senior Airman Jonathon Crist, 52nd Security Forces Squadron, left, gives Staff Sgt. Anthony Ross, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, a breathalyzer test during an alcohol awareness class Sept. 10 at the Brick House. This class gave Airmen a firsthand understanding of how alcohol affects their abilities. They also learned how to accurately count how much alcohol they consume. Airmen who participated in the class drank one alcoholic drink an hour, not to exceed five, and participated in exercises testing their cognitive thinking, reaction time and balance. Airmen also participated as designated drivers for those drinking. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Natasha Stannard)

Senior Airman Jonathon Crist, 52nd Security Forces Squadron, left, gives Staff Sgt. Anthony Ross, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, a breathalyzer test during an alcohol awareness class Sept. 10 at the Brick House. This class gave Airmen a firsthand understanding of how alcohol affects their abilities. They also learned how to accurately count how much alcohol they consume. Airmen who participated in the class drank one alcoholic drink an hour, not to exceed five, and participated in exercises testing their cognitive thinking, reaction time and balance. Airmen also participated as designated drivers for those drinking. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Natasha Stannard

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- "How many ounces of alcohol do you think are in one drink?," Maj. Nathan Maertens, 52nd Aerospace Medical Sqaudron, asked participants during an alcohol awareness class he hosted with the Culture of Responsibility Success Team Sept. 9 at the Brick House.

Answers from the crowd varied between four to eight ounces -- answers which solidified the need to dispel myths about drinking and teach safe drinking methods such as determining how many drinks are in one beverage.

"I hope we're able to dispel misunderstandings that set folks up for failure such as not realizing how much they drank," Maertens said. "They may have had three beverages, but not realize they actually had more than three drinks."

After an open forum about the consequences of drinking, reasons for drinking, definitions of one drink and dependence; the actual drinking began.

"I learned how to count drinks," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Ross,52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "They gave us a hand out that fits in our wallets with various beverages listing how many drinks are in each. For example, when people say they've had one beer they're usually referring to one can, which is actually two beers."

Airmen with a safe way home were provided one drink, approximately 5.5 ounces of alcohol, an hour with a limit of five drinks total.

"I volunteered to see how alcohol affects me," said Airman 1st Class Terri Cooper, 52nd Aerospace Medical Squadron. "I have a better understanding of how alcohol can affect people now. Watching everyone go through the activities after they'd been drinking, especially with the driving simulator was really eye opening because a lot of people started to crash."

Drinking wasn't all Airmen did per hour, as they completed a series of activities testing how drinking affected their reaction time, reflexes and cognitive thinking including:

· Balancing test on Bonsu balls
· Breathelizer tests
· Field sobriety tests
· Driving simulators
· Stoop test, a test forcing people to overcome learned responses
· Computer maze with rotating keys as participants progress through levels

After each activity, participants noted how they did on each. This was to show the progression of results after each drink.

"Testing makes it real," Maertens said. "Everyone says, 'that will never happen to me,' but it can and it has. I mean how much is that six pack really worth."

Participants learned their limits through these tests.

"I definitely believe now that drinking boosts your confidence, which sounds like a good thing but could have adverse affects," said Airman 1st Class Adande Andrade 52nd Fighter Wing Legal Office. "Before I started drinking, I was hesitant to get on the balancing ball. Once I started drinking, I just jumped right on. That showed me that while intoxicated, I do things I typically wouldn't do sober - when intoxicated I don't think about things as much. The balancing ball was something insignificant, but there are things in my life this could affect that are significant."

Those drinking weren't the only ones learning from the experience, as their designated drivers had a front seat to the class.

"I'm learning the limits and never considered them before," said Airman1st Class Latora Burroughs, Cooper's designated driver from the 52nd Medical Support Squadron.

Once the class was over, Airmen went home with their designated drivers. They also went home with a better understanding to share with others of what five drinks really are and what five drinks can really do and how drinking irresponsibly can affect their ability to provide reliable capability to the current flight.