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Have a plan and a wingman

A martini shaker pouring alcohol into a broken glass with the alcohol splattering onto two wrecked vehicles, illustrating the consequences of DUI in this story. (composite illustration by Sammie W. King)

A martini shaker pouring alcohol into a broken glass with the alcohol splattering onto two wrecked vehicles, illustrating the consequences of DUI in this story. (composite illustration by Sammie W. King)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- As we enter the holiday season I wanted to share a message of safety and making responsible decisions. A message that we all hear time and time again but it continues to be an epidemic in our society.

The holiday season is one of the deadliest times of the year for alcohol-related crashes. Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimates that each year nationally, more than 1,000 people typically die during Thanksgiving to New Year's in drunk driving crashes.

Because of the increased consumption of alcohol and an increase in the number of special events and parties, drinking and driving is more prevalent. Ironically, drinking and driving crashes are one of the most easily preventable catastrophes. Drinking and driving is a choice each driver makes.

RAF Lakenheath is not immune to these potential tragedies as apparent in our number of DUIs each year. For the last three years our DUI numbers have been climbing steadily; 21 in 2009, 26 in 2010; 26 and for 2011 we are already at a staggering 18 and are likely to break 2009-10 numbers if we do not make better decisions now. Thankfully, for each of those DUIs there is not always a death or injuries involved, but the potential is absolutely there.

As a first sergeant, I have received several phone calls informing me that members in my squadron have been arrested for DUIs and I have always been fortunate enough to breathe a little sigh of relief when I hear no casualties or injuries involved. But in that next breath, I also ask myself, where was their wingman? How many of the 18 DUIs this year could have been prevented if these people had a Wingman with them? It seems like a simple concept, but too often a good plan goes awry and the results are careers and lives lost in an instant.

If you get a DUI the only good thing that is going to come from it is you living to suffer the consequences, the rest is all bad. You may have injured or killed someone, so now you will possibly spend a large portion of your life in jail and your career is over. Not to mention the financial implications which at a minimum will cost you about $10,000 with fines, lawyer fees, results of lost stripes and future promotion opportunities. If you hurt or kill someone, this number is apt to increase with lawsuits from the survivors or their families. So, ask yourself, "Is it really worth it?"

I would plead that this holiday season you "have a plan and a wingman." Enjoy yourself and get home safe. Take care of your friends and loved ones to ensure they get home safe as well. If you see someone who looks like their "plan" has fallen through, please step in and be a "fill-in wingman" and don't let them make a mistake that they will have to live with the rest of their lives. A good wingman would never deny someone a ride home if there is no other wingman in site, also don't forget your option to call Airmen Against Drunk Driving. Or, how about pulling out that recall roster that's in your wallet and dialing up a peer, supervisor or first sergeant? These people would much rather pick you up at the local pub or club than the drunk tank or at the scene of a horrific accident.

Take care of yourself and your fellow Liberty Wing Airmen! Have a happy holiday season, have a plan and a wingman and come back safe to us in 2012.