(Via Ho’okele News)
Alcohol related incidents (ARIs) are on the decline at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, but they’re not low enough, according to the DUI Task Force.
When ARIs and drunk driving charges began to rise at an alarming rate earlier this year, the 15th Wing leadership partnered with the 15th Medical Operations Support Squadron Mental Health Flight to resolve the problem.
The Hickam DUI Task Force stood up May 9 and immediately put a new community action plan into place.
Additionally, “DUI conditions” (DUICONs) were in-stated requiring mandatory actions from commanders, first sergeants and supervisors in the event the number of DUIs elevate.
Capt. Jeffrey Smith, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment element leader, said the DUICONs were implemented to raise awareness of the problem and get the leadership more involved. Actions taken under the DUICONS include, but are not limited to, commander’s calls, E-5 and below roll call and unit members having to personally change the DUICON sign daily.
Chief Master Sgt. James Smith, 15th Wing command chief, said there are two main goals of the DUI Task Force: awareness and education.
“The sign at the O’Malley Gate is one vital tool that helps us reach these goals, however, commander and supervisor face-to-face engagement is still our number one weapon,” he said.
Prior to implementing the community action plan, Hickam had the most DUIs in PACAF for the fiscal year. There have been 20 DUIs since January of this year, though the amount of DUIs have declined significantly since May, following the implementation of the task force.
Capt. Smith said it has been more than 102 days since there has been a DUI in the 15th Wing and alcohol related incidents within the wing are down 70 percent since May.
He attributes the DUI Task Force’s success to the increased awareness and change in culture.
Chief Smith said he also attributes the success to an increase in leadership involvement.
“Commanders and supervisors are discussing alcohol openly and freely with Airmen across the wing,” he said. “Not only do they discuss DUIs, but they are discussing binge drinking, alcohol abuse and the behaviors associated.”
However, according to Capt. Smith the DUI Task Force is not here to send the message to Airmen that they can’t drink at all, as long as they do so responsibly and with a plan.
“We want to send the message that drinking is okay, but drinking irresponsibly is not,” he said. “There have not been a lot of events on base involving alcohol because we’re trying to change the culture, and there has been a shift since then.”
Staff Sgt. Amanda Villa, 15th MDG Mental Health Resiliency and Outreach NCO in charge, said the aggressive campaign has helped drive home the point that the Air Force will not tolerate drinking and driving.
“We can do better than this,” she said. “Preventing DUIs is everyone’s responsibility because our ultimate goal is to not even have one. There’s no reason to have a twelve pack and get behind the wheel.”
Villa said people often underestimate how much they have had to drink or how those drinks will affect them, so it’s best to steer clear of driving after any drinks at all.
“It’s not worth the risk,” she said. “People feel like they are fine to drive, but buzzed driving is still drunk driving so it’s not okay to drive after even one drink.”
Chief Smith offers advice to Airmen who might find themselves in a compromising situation.
“Adhere to the core values at all time. Behavior that doesn’t align with our core values will not be tolerated,” he said. “All of the leadership in the 15th Wing want our Airmen to enjoy this assignment. Take advantage of what this beautiful island has to offer and cultivate relationships, just do so responsibly and take care of each other.”