What's your plan?

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
As you can imagine, my phone rings a lot, day and night. And when the DSN line rings in my quarters, it's rarely good news. 

Most Saturday and Sunday mornings it rings about 8 a.m. and the voice at the other end says, "Sir this is SrA/Sgt XXXX at the Command Post and I need to make a notification." There's usually a brief pause (during which time I say a quick, silent "Please-God-let-nobody-be-hurt"-prayer). Then I tell the controller, "Go ahead." 

More often than not the notification is about someone at Team Sheppard who made an irresponsible choice the night before. Thank God, usually my prayer is answered, and no injury is involved. 

But often the call involves an alcohol-related incident of some kind. Three times since Jan. 1 I've been notified of a driving while intoxicated offense. 

While fortunately no one got hurt during any of these DWIs, it's disappointing to me that we've already had three this year. More troubling is that none of these DWIs involved an airman-in-training or permanent party airman; all three involved permanent party NCOs. In fact, all three were NCO instructors of our airmen-in-training. They were instructors responsible for helping our airmen make responsible choices, but each of these NCOs failed to make a responsible choice. 

So what's the lesson here? To me, the lesson is that any drinker is vulnerable to a DWI unless he/she has a foolproof plan for preventing a DWI. 

Here are some examples of foolproof plans: 
· Never drive after consuming any amount of alcohol 
· Always use a designated driver 
· Never drink with car keys under your control 
· Hand off your keys before your first drink 
· Always take a cab to a place you plan to drink 

Here are some examples of riskier plans: 
· Plan to take a cab home and leave your car behind if you drink (alcohol can make you change your mind and drive anyway) 
· Plan to not drive if you have more than two drinks (alcohol can talk yourself into changing this number) 
· Plan to not drive if you feel intoxicated (alcohol impairs your ability to judge your level of intoxication) 
· Plan to call Airmen Against Drunk Driving if you drink too much (alcohol impairs your ability to remember to do this, or find the phone number) 
· Plan to catch a ride home with friends (if your friends leave, alcohol may tempt you to drive your own car home) 

Each of our three DWIs this year involved NCOs who had a plan. Each of them had what I would call a risky plan. Any plan that assumes you'll make a responsible choice while impaired by alcohol is a risky plan. It doesn't matter how old or experienced you are, or how much rank is on your sleeve or shoulder, a risky plan can lead you down the slippery slope to a DWI. 

So I urge you all to have foolproof plans when it comes to drinking and driving. The stakes are too high - you are too important; we need you; your family needs you; your country needs you! We can't afford you to be an unguided missile on our highways putting your life and our lives at risk. 

Thanks for listening Team Sheppard - have a safe President's Day weekend - and please have a foolproof plan if you plan to drink.