We broke our winning streak

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
We broke our streak last weekend. Sheppard AFB had gone 70 days without a DUI.

I was so proud every time I saw that number grow while driving out the gate. But our winning streak came to an end Friday when a technical sergeant from our 82nd Training Wing Staff was charged with Driving While Intoxicated. Without getting into all the details, the NCO had been drinking at the Sheppard Club, drove home and then was driving to another location when he was pulled over for speeding.

The breathalyzer test administered by the police showed his blood alcohol level to be well over the legal limit. In the aftermath of this alleged DUI, this technical sergeant is dealing with serious career and life-impacting consequences.

What went wrong? With respect to the facts and circumstances of this case, we'll let the legal system sort that out, but in my view, there are three primary teaching points to be learned from this scenario.

First lesson, it can happen to any of us. DUIs don't just happen to young, inexperienced folks. This technical sergeant's case demonstrates that even our most seasoned Air Force people are susceptible.

Second, I would argue that the cause of this DUI was not that this NCO chose to drive after he'd been drinking, but that he chose to drink with car keys in his pocket.

Listen to my logic. We all know that the more we drink, the more our judgment is impaired, and the less confident we can be that we will make the right choice about driving. So in my experience, the only foolproof way for a drinker to prevent a DUI is to remove the chance of making a bad choice - give up the car keys (or leave them at home) before you take the first drink.

You cannot get a DUI without access to your car keys.

Third, others could have prevented this DUI through more forceful intervention. At the Sheppard Club, several reportedly asked the NCO "Do you feel OK? Are you OK to drive?" The problem with questions like this is the answer will invariably be shaped by the impaired judgment of the person who has been drinking.

A better question might be, "How many drinks have you had? You don't know?, then give me your keys." That kind of probing line of questioning might be the kind that saves a life.

So what did we learn from this DUI? I can tell you what I relearned. I relearned it can happen to any of us drinkers; that I shouldn't drink with car keys in my pocket, and if I suspect someone may be at risk of a DUI, don't ask them easy questions, but ask the hard ones. That's what I learned; I hope you did too.

In the end, I thank God that this NCO didn't hurt himself, one of us or one of our family or friends while operating his "unguided missile" through our community. In this New Year, let's resolve to keep our new DUI-free streak going. Let's all be part of the solution to continue to make DUIs a rare event at Sheppard.

Thanks and be safe this weekend.