Irresponsible drinkers risk life, career, mission

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Fostering a culture of socially responsible Airmen is imperative in today's Air Force. Because Airmen represent the Air Force on and off duty, responsibility extends past their work environment and into their social lives. Part of their social responsibility includes drinking responsibly, looking out for fellow Airmen and ensuring they conduct themselves appropriately.

To do this, Airmen need to ensure that when they drink, they don't do anything to harm themselves or others or threaten mission readiness.

"Alcohol slows down the function of the central nervous system," said Tech. Sgt. Bilma Romero, 39th Air Base Wing Safety Office safety technician. "This means that alcohol blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain."

Reduced brain function can lead to poor decisions such as fighting, driving drunk and possibly injuring or killing someone. Prolonged binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning.

Various factors determine the affect alcohol has on individuals, so the definition of drinking responsibly can vary.

"Alcohol can have different effects on different individuals depending on age, size, sex and health," said Romero. "However, at Incirlik, we have the '0-1-3' program -- zero alcohol-related incidents, one drink per hour, and no more than three drinks per night. Responsible drinking can be defined as the level of drinking that poses a low risk of alcohol-related problems, both for the drinker and others."

Not only could irresponsible drinking jeopardize health, those who receive administrate punishments for alcohol-related incidents could also mar their career.

"Depending on the misconduct, the member could receive letters of counseling, admonishment or reprimand," explained Master Sgt. Amanda Lopez, 39th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate Office NCO in charge of military justice. "For more serious misconduct, the member could be facing an Article 15 or possibly a court-martial that could result in receiving a confinement, punitive discharge or a dismissal for an officer."

Likewise, accumulating several lesser offenses could do long-term damage to an Airman's career by affecting enlisted and officer performance reports, permanent changes of station, promotions and other factors.

If there are multiple disciplinary letters "within one rating period, the member could receive a referral EPR for misconduct because they're not meeting standards," added Lopez. "If an incident is severe enough and the commander feels it's appropriate, the member could receive an unfavorable information file. A control roster is also an option if there's been a history of multiple infractions. With the control roster, there's the ramifications of not being able to PCS, go TDY, your follow-on assignment could be cancelled or promotions could be withheld; so it can really mess up your career."

When drinking, it is important that Airmen are mindful of what they say to avoid inadvertently giving away critical information that can adversely affect members of Team Incirlik or the mission.

"When they are drunk, people tend to say more than they should," said Staff Sgt. Lisa Pope, 39th Air Base Wing alternate operational security monitor. "If it has anything to do with work or your job, it doesn't need to be discussed outside of work. Nothing, no matter what your job is, needs to be discussed anywhere outside your work center."

Pope advised against discussing dates for taking leave or going TDY, as well as mission-specific dates. Also, discussing topics that are sensitive to local nationals can hurt host-nation relationships. When drinking, people increase the possibility of saying something that could be interpreted as offensive because they could be less likely to filter what they are saying.

"Political and religious issues in Turkey are a sensitive topic," said Pope. "If you begin to engage in a political or religious debate with a Turkish national, it could get them spun up on their beliefs and it could put you in a position you don't want to be in; so we suggest you avoid all political and religious conversations."

Drinking responsibly is up to the drinker, but it's also important to be a good Wingman if someone has had too much to drink.

"People who drink too much will show signs, such as staggering, loss of coordination and slurring their speech," said Romero. "If a friend begins to show these signs and they continue to drink, it is time for a great Wingman to step in and care. Make sure they get home safely."