An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | Sept. 30, 2015

Drinking alcohol responsibly, what does that mean?

By Master Sgt. Joseph Hayne 628th Comptroller Squadron

As I sat at the hotel bar, sipping whiskey on the rocks, I thought about the opportunity that had been presented to me - author a piece for the Commander's Commentary. People, who know me well, know I often enjoy expressing my thoughts via written form. However, I have often embarked upon such endeavors in informal settings and with a passion that enabled me to express my thoughts with a sort of scornful veracity.  I reminded myself that this forum was not the venue for such an approach.  I knew once I had decided upon a topic, I needed to convey my sentiments with professionalism. Sitting amongst the other patrons who were discussing a myriad of issues including impending football games, I explored my thoughts, trying to determine an appropriate subject to write about.  There were numerous areas I could discuss but I felt the need to ensure I shared my personal experiences.  I took another sip of my drink and had an epiphany.

When I was a 19 year old airman and still brand new to the Air Force, my supervisor, SSgt "Shall Remain Anonymous," who, coincidentally, retired as a CMSgt, encouraged my sponsor to take me out for drinks.  Since that time, our Air Force culture has continually evolved and behaviors which were acceptable as little as two decades ago could be very detrimental, if not entirely career ending, today.  As I reflected upon this transition, it led me to ponder if alcohol should still have a place within the culture of the profession of arms.

Does alcohol have a place in the profession of arms?  Of course it does. Drinking alcohol has been a component of military service and the profession of arms culture since antiquity.  Aside from the more healthy forms of stress release, imbibing alcohol has often afforded fighting men and women an opportunity to momentarily alleviate many of the burdens that sometimes coincide with military service.  Additionally, indulging in drink with a group of peers can contribute to the building of rapport.  An example of this behavior is when we celebrate the promotion of our colleagues.

There is nothing inherently wrong with drinking so long as one drinks responsibly.   Yet, what exactly does "drinking responsibly" mean?  I'd be remiss if I didn't ask this question but, more importantly, if I didn't attempt to answer it.   In a nutshell, I think that drinking responsibly could be summarized as not drinking so much you become so intoxicated that your decisions and actions could inflict injury to yourself and/or others or bring discredit to yourself and the United States Air Force.

However, a dichotomy exists within this explanation.  Your judgment becomes impaired when you drink, oftentimes so subtly that you are unaware of the impairment.  Ultimately, this makes "drinking responsibly" an increasingly more challenging task with each subsequent drink.  As a result, drinking can become a vice and, while imperfection is part of being human, we are encouraged to strive for excellence within the USAF. Mastering your vice can be a mark of such excellence.  At the very least, it is a sign of the self-discipline required for military service.

This leads me to the point of my commentary. How can we master this vice?  Only two answers readily come to mind; either abstain from drinking altogether or prepare properly!  I prefer the latter.  If we know that we're going to drink, we must exercise prudence.  It behooves each service member to assure that they have adequate means of transportation when they decide to drink outside of their homes.  Of equal importance is ensuring that we have sufficient recovery time before reporting for duty.  

As I had often been told in the early portion of my career, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!"  Do not allow a failure to plan to detract from our culture of excellence.  More importantly, let's not allow such conscious disregard to contribute to the demise of others or the Air Force mission.