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Know the risks involved in DUI, DWAIs

F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- The 90th Space Wing has seen its share of Airmen caught driving under the influence of alcohol. This has led to many changes throughout the past few years, including more on-base activities that act as drinking alternatives and the now Air Force-wide 0-0-1-3 program, among others.

Because of the success of these programs, the number of alcohol-related incidents has declined dramatically; however, a few Warren members are still risking their careers, their lives and the lives of others by driving while intoxicated.

A blood alcohol content of .08 is the legal limit in Wyoming, however, in Colorado one can be charged with driving while ability impaired with a blood alcohol content between .05 to .08, said Capt. Ken Artz, 90th Space Wing assistant staff judge advocate and chief of adverse actions.

Colorado takes into account other factors when determining whether or not to proceed with prosecuting a DWAI charge. If a police officer pulls someone over who is swerving and driving poorly, but the driver has a blood alcohol content less than .08, but more than .05, the officer has the ability to charge the person with a DWAI. On the other hand, if the officer pulls someone over for a broken tail light and the driver is otherwise exercising clear judgment but has a blood alcohol content between .05 and .08, the officer has the option to not charge the driver.

Alcohol affects people in different ways. It all depends on individual body build, whether the person is male or female, whether they've had something to eat and their perception of what one drink is, said Tony Fontes, 90th Medical Operations Squadron certified drug and alcohol counselor. A standard drink is one shot or a 12 ounce beer. Someone may drink a 24-ounce beer and consider it one drink when in reality they just had two.

The Air Force has jurisdiction to prosecute all DUI offenders caught in Laramie County, regardless if the driver was caught on or off base. The most common offender is a male airman first class caught either in Fort Collins, Colo., or in Cheyenne, Captain Artz said. While there is no set punishment, it usually includes the loss of a stripe, suspended or forfeitures of pay, extra duty, restriction to base, loss of driving privileges and a reprimand. The offender also must stand in front of the base commander to explain what happened.

Group commanders are now issuing DUI punishments. In the past, it was done by squadron commanders.

"The Air Force takes DUIs very, very seriously," Captain Artz said.

There are many alternatives to driving drunk, whether it's having a reliable designated driver or calling a friend or a cab for a ride home. "Arrive Alive" cards that can be used to get a free cab ride home in Cheyenne are available through first sergeants.

The members of the alcohol and drug awareness prevention treatment center are more than willing to provide assistance to those in need.

Many people fear career repercussions; however, there is zero impact for someone who came to the ADAPT program as a self referral, said Tech. Sgt. Shannon Burbridge, 90th MDOS Life Skills. Depending on the diagnosis, the person may be pulled from personnel reliability program duties, but the goal of ADAPT is to refer the member back to full-duty status.

If you think you may have a drinking problem, visit life skills for help or call 773-2998 before a life-changing incident happens.

The negative repercussions occur only after an Airman makes the poor choice to drink and drive.