JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
One day in August, I stepped outside and saw my neighbor and coworker working in his yard. He had mentioned to me that our commander was having an emergency commander's call. I then checked my phone and it revealed I had one missed call and a voicemail. I listened to the voicemail and it was what I expected to hear. I called into the shop and told them to consider me notified. It was at that point they informed me of a recent DUI and that the Airman was my troop.
I attended the Commander's Call in a hangar where every member of our squadron on station had gathered. Several hundred people stood at attention on this Sunday evening waiting for the message that the commander came to deliver. A maintenance stand was raised before the crowd and the commander entered and climbed up. His speech was short and to the point. He was disgusted that another person in the squadron had operated a vehicle while intoxicated.
I headed to my subordinate's house after the commander's speech to see what was going on and to see if he was alright. He had just been released out of jail and was unable to attend the meeting that the rest of the squadron had been mandated to attend. On the way to his house I thought of all the things that this person had risked by drinking and driving. First of all, he was risking the safety of himself and others on the road. Secondly, being pulled over and charged with DUI, he put at risk everything he had worked so hard to achieve up to that point. He had worked for years to attain a reputation as a dedicated, hardworking Airman. It was this attitude and dedication that helped him earn the stripes he wore and be recommended for a superior job in his career field. Not everyone gets the opportunities he had. It was all in jeopardy of being taken away now.
I made it to my troop's house and the look on his face was that of disgust. It wasn't, until this point, that he really assessed what he was risking by his actions. There wasn't a whole lot I could say to the guy. I thought of all the things I could say as a supervisor to reprimand him, but there wasn't anything I could say that could make him feel any worse. And if there was, it wasn't necessary.
The first day he was to report back to work, my troop could not drive and had no one to give him a ride. So I got up the next few days, even though I was off, to take him to work. It is well out of my way and I was pretty irritated about doing this. I knew we'd be talking with the chief and the captain sometime soon, so there was no use planning anything personal for the next few days. And we'd surely be seeing the colonel, so we both got our Service Dress cleaned up for that meeting.
Over the next couple weeks, we had meeting after meeting with chiefs, captains, colonels and everyone in between. In each instance I was pulled from what I was doing to attend. In some cases I was on my own time, some cases I was at work. Either way it was incredibly inconvenient for me. In one case on a day I was off, I had to drive 80 miles back into town to attend a meeting. When I am normally at work, my position as a leader in my shop requires 100 percent of my attention and I wouldn't commonly be asked to leave my shop for this reason. These extra hours purged into my work life and my family life.
As it were, the civilian court had jurisdiction over the matter and my troop had a plan put together as to how he was going to try to protect himself. It involved consultations with a lawyer and by the time it was all over, he was going to be out no less than $8,000 just in lawyer fees. If the civilian court decided to give up jurisdiction and let the military handle it, things could be very different.
With very short notice, I had a meeting with the squadron commander where we were all blindsided when an Article 15 was offered as punishment. Up to this point, the civilian court had held jurisdiction. My troop and I did not know that they had given up jurisdiction to the military. The process from start to finish for an Article 15 is a lengthy one. The Article 15 was to lose a stripe, forfeiture of pay and 45 days extra duty. Given the other option, which would be court martial, the terms were pretty fair. I drove my troop to the alterations shop and waited while they cut his stripe off.
In summary, drinking and driving affects everyone. Putting people's lives at risk on the road is absolutely intolerable. Although no one was killed or injured in this instance, it still did not turn out well. There is no best case scenario when people drink and drive. My troop, making the decisions he did, affected his career, his financial stability and his peers' and supervisors' confidence in him. His actions wasted my time and money, both on and off duty. If a person were able to feel the humiliation and fear or at least comprehend it, they would think twice about putting themselves in the same position.