EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The increase in driving under the influence of alcohol incidents this year, compared to those during the same time last year, has prompted leadership to remind Eglin's Airmen of the consequences of a DUI.
Maj. John Batka, Eglin's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and Treatment program manager, monitors the base's DUI numbers. He said from January to March 2012, the ADAPT program was notified of 18 on-base DUIs. There were six on-base DUIs over the same period in 2011, he added.
A DUI can seriously impact an Airman's chances for advancement and retention, according to Batka. It can prevent them from testing for advancement to the next higher pay grade, especially if they've received a reduction in rank or a suspended bust as a result.
In most DUI cases, an Airman can receive punishment from their squadron commander, which can include reduction or suspended reduction in rank; loss of pay; issuance of a control roster or additional duties and an Article 15, Batka said.
In addition to military punishment, civil and criminal penalties may also be implemented.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website, DUI penalties can include: fines ranging from $250 to $500 on a first conviction; 50 hours mandatory community service; and up to one year's probation and six months of imprisonment.
Also, an Airman's license can be revoked for a minimum of 180 days; their vehicle can be impounded and they can be ordered to complete 12 hours at a DUI school.
There is also the potential for inclusion in the Air Force's date of separation rollbacks, Batka said.
"When the Air Force looks to remove people from its rolls, they look at individuals who have had difficulties in their careers. Receiving a DUI is a quick way of getting on that list," he said.
DUIs and alcohol abuse affect more than just the Airman. Family, friends and coworkers could suffer the ramifications.
"If the possibility of punishment, loss of money and a career is not enough to convince an Airman not to drink and drive, then maybe the impact on their family and friends will convince them to come to us for help," he said.
A wing commander will often revoke base driving privileges for up to a year, which can adversely affect an Airman's family, Batka said.
"For example, if an Airman has a child enrolled in a child development center, and is responsible for the delivery and pick-up of the child, the Airman must now arrange transportation for not only the child, but to the workplace," he said.
This can lead to a burden on the Airman's unit, Batka said. If the Airman's spouse works in town and can't drive him or her to work, he or she may have to ask a co-worker, a first sergeant or a supervisor for rides, he added.
When an Airman is given a DUI the unit is notified. Typically, the first sergeant picks up the Airman from security. How a unit is notified can have an impact on how a squadron commander or unit commander interprets the offense, according to Batka.
Next, they're referred to the ADAPT program, where they receive an assessment. Batka said about 120 man-hours are lost for each command referral. That's approximately four to $6,000 lost per referral.
According to Batka, the assessment can result in four to six hours of education, including completion of an alcohol education module with a drug and alcohol counselor or an experienced mental health technician.
Repeat offenders must attend outpatient group sessions for six to 12 months. At the upper end, they attend 28 days of inpatient treatment at the hospital, followed by six to 12 months of outpatient group sessions.
Any Airman who feels they have alcohol-related issues are encouraged to seek help through an ADAPT self-referral program, said Batka. At a minimum, Airmen should be armed with a set of knowledge, skills and attitudes, and a good plan when comes to drugs and alcohol.
"Most people know when they get past a certain number of drinks, they're no longer legally supposed to drive," Batka said.
Batka encouraged the "zero-zero-one-three" approach to monitoring drinking. This guideline means zero drinks if you're driving, zero drinks if you're underage, no more than one drink an hour and no more than three drinks a night. Having a reliable wingman is another approach.
"Many Airmen think having a wingman means go get drunk with a buddy. That's not having a wingman," he said. Having a wingman means going into a situation and saying 'tonight I'm going to have three. If you see me wanting to have more, you, as my wingman, will intervene.'"
Batka encourages Airmen to seek out and take advantage of alternative avenues of enjoyment, both inside and outside Eglin's gates.
"Many people see alcohol as the answer for stress relief or the answer for sociability," he said. "It's key to know there are plenty of other recreational opportunities available to enjoy, on and off-base. The more you do those, the more likely you're going to have a long, fruitful career in the Air Force."