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NEWS | May 3, 2011

Laughter with a message – WS Sailors learn the dangers of alcohol

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston public affairs

Hundreds of Sailors doubled over in laughter in a packed room at the Red Bank Club as comedian Bernie McGrenahan provided service members an entertaining and informative stand-up comedy happy hour at Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station, April 27.

By using laughter and personal experiences to shine light on the severity of alcohol, drug abuse and sexual assault, Mr. McGrenahan's Happy Hour Program is frequently sought out by military leaders at bases around the globe.

"I created the Happy Hour comedy program in 1998," said Mr. McGrenahan. "Let's face it, alcohol, drug and sexual assault safety briefs are not easy training sessions, especially when they are mandatory to attend. I wanted to create a way to not only entertain troops but to be as informative as possible and share my personal experiences associated with high-risk drinking.

"I hope to inspire Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors around the world to 'have a plan' when going out drinking; provide them with the tools to make low-risk, safe and wise choices in regards to alcohol," he continued.

When Mr. McGrenahan tours, he performs a 30 minute stand-up comedy routine which he follows with a serious, 30-minute testimony in which he shares his own story of three Driving Under the Influence arrests and a six-month jail sentence. The powerful message targets service members and spreads awareness throughout the ranks, inspiring service members to make smarter, safer decisions when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse.

"The comedy show helped bring a lot of light to the problems related to alcohol abuse and how our responsibilities are more than just what we do daily at our jobs but what we are doing after hours as well," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Alex Sidel, Detaching Transient Personnel unit. "His comedy opening was really enjoyable, but he made it real with his true life stories."

According to Machinist's Mate Chief Jose Ruiz, Navy Power Training Unit's command Drug and Alcohol Programs Advisor, service members are often given PowerPoint presentations that never actually accomplish the intended training.

However, the same message, delivered through laughter and balanced with personal experiences, captures those in attendance and has a much bigger impact on Sailors.

"The young Sailors here today are getting a firsthand account on the hazards associated with the choices they make about drinking," MMC Ruiz said. "This is sending a much more powerful message than any PowerPoint can. Mr. McGrenahan has had to face real consequences due to the choices he made and it makes his message more real for our junior Sailors."

Mr. McGrenahan said it is common practice for people to blame others for their alcohol abuse while trying to cope with life, when in reality, using drugs and alcohol will only make difficult situations worse.

Electronic's Technician 1st Class Trent Whalon, Navy Nuclear Power Training Command's command DAPA said, "Our command is made up of mostly 18 to 24-year-old Sailors, which is the common age for drinking related incidents. With such a large percentage of our command in that target range, the comedy helps attract and get the message out and hopefully makes our young Sailors more aware of the consequences associated with their decisions and how it can affect their careers," he said. "It only takes one DUI or drinking related incident to change the course of a Sailor's career. Our decisions are directly linked to how we are viewed in leadership's eyes both on and off duty. Sailors must be proactive and make smart choices."