JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Joint Base Charleston leadership pledged a renewed stance against Airmen driving under the influence by signing and instituting a DUI Battle Plan that will take effect April 1, 2013.
The DUI Battle Plan is modeled after a program implemented in 2010 at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., after the base recorded the highest number of DUIs in Air Mobility Command.
After one year of implementation of their Battle Plan, the number of DUIs decreased by 42 percent at Travis AFB and the numbers have held steady during the past two years.
"I had a hand in the creation and implementation at Travis," said Maj. Daniel Michel, 628th Medical Group director of psychological health. "So, instead of reinventing the wheel when I arrived here at JB Charleston I proposed the DUI Battle Plan to leadership."
Once leadership gave approval to start formulating a DUI Battle Plan to specifically address issues here, Michel and Senior Master Sgt. Michelle McMeekin, Joint Base Charleston career assistance advisor, went to work. McMeekin worked with commanders, chiefs and first sergeants on base to establish a clear plan to move forward with.
"At this time last year, when we were constructing a DUI Battle Plan specific to JB Charleston, the number of DUIs was already on the rise," said McMeekin. "We worked with both the 628th Air Base Wing leadership as well as the 437th Airlift Wing leadership to make sure the plan to reduce these numbers was going to work for all Airmen on base."
On March 13, 2013, both Col. Richard McComb, Joint Base Charleston commander, and Col. Darren Hartford, 437th Airlift Wing commander, signed the plan.
"Team Charleston now has a clear plan to reduce a public safety hazard using a combined team effort," said McComb. "Drunken driving prevention is not a new concept, but locally we will be combining efforts in a new way to ensure the safety of our community, both on and off the installation and the protection of our Airmen."
"Our expectations are clear, leaders need to take care of their Airmen and we expect Airmen to make the right choices," said Hartford. "Whether it is binge drinking or underage drinking, the wrong choices can undermine our foundations, strain relations and ultimately place mission success at risk."
The goal of the DUI Battle Plan is to decrease DUIs within the JB Charleston community. To accomplish this goal, the Battle Plan calls for the regular base-wide dissemination of information regarding the number of DUIs the installation has experienced.
"We want to be open about how many DUIs are happening with the hope this will deter future offenders," said McMeekin.
The plan creates three categories, or DUI CONDITIONS: Green, Yellow, and Red. If there is a rise in DUIs within a 60 day period the condition level will change and specific actions will be taken to include: Commanders Calls, DUI checkpoints at random locations and an increased marketing campaign for safe and sober activities.
"In the case an Airman is arrested for a DUI, he or she will be required to report to the Mental Health office to be admitted into the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Program," said Michel.
The ADAPT program includes substance abuse prevention, education, treatment and urinalysis testing.
"Airmen may be admitted into the ADAPT program if they are involved in any alcohol related incident, not just a DUI," said Staff Sgt. Kody Parsons, 628th Medical Group Mental Health ADAPT technician. "Airmen can also do self-identification admittance if they feel they have a substance abuse problem. The self-identification step is a smart way to avoid any future issues or problems that will arise from long term substance abuse."
In addition to efforts to stem drunk driving, local leaders are also targeting underage drinking with the help of a grant from the Department of Justice. State and installation officials are implementing Project STAR, safety through alcohol responsibility, to identify steps to help prevent underage drinking and promote positive lifestyle choices. The three-year grant allots the base more than $600,000 to increase prevention measures.
"This grant will help the base pay for training, alcohol law enforcement teams, road blocks and other forms of implementation," said Terecia Wilson, South Carolina Project Star manager. "The grant not only helps the Airmen at Joint Base Charleston, but it also helps the surrounding community by promoting healthy lifestyle choices."
The application process and approval for the Project STAR grant happened nearly over night.
"I was contacted by an individual on the committee notifying me about the grant and the short deadline we had to submit a proposal," said McMeekin. "Base leadership, along with base legal, approved the endeavor. We submitted the proposal and waited with crossed fingers ... then found out it was approved and that Joint Base Charleston had been selected."
A component of Project STAR is the Needs and Resources Assessment, which will help identify where the problems with underage drinking by military personnel on JB Charleston are occurring, the types of problems underage drinking is causing, the consequences for everyone involved, current resources, and programs being applied to the problem.
"It is important for Airmen to understand they can't pick and choose which laws they choose to follow," said Col. Judith Hughes, 628th MDG commander and DUI Battle Plan committee member. "Volunteering to serve in uniform means you willingly hold yourself to a higher standard, and that includes following the law."
The overall focus of the DUI Battle Plan is to help keep Airmen from making bad decisions and keep them focused on making good ones.
"Project STAR and the DUI Battle Plan is in-line with the 'Protect Your Future - Make Responsible Choices' message," said Hughes. "Good choices made today can build positive habits that last a lifetime and can prevent lost opportunities many years from now in multiple areas of an Airman's life," said Hughes."