Solutions are out of reach when we believe they don’t exist

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- We've heard it so many times that we're starting to believe it: "We'll never stop DUIs." But, I reject the notion this problem is inevitable and there is nothing we can do about it. There is always a solution, and in order to get to the solution, we must understand the problem. To understand the problem, we must answer the question of "why."

As much as we talk about it, why do Airmen still get DUIs? Those who were caught knew drinking and driving is against the law and could injure themselves or others. Before they began drinking, they knew efforts to catch drunk drivers have been increased by police departments. Just look at the base marquee to understand that. They also knew the dangers involved with driving while intoxicated, but they still decided to make the wrong choice.

With all the available resources like our wingman program or the Beale Airmen Against Drunk Driving program, why would anyone risk their career or the lives of others by driving drunk? Perhaps I can answer this question by telling you about a unit that has been DUI-free for six years -- the 9th Munitions Squadron. The 9th MUNS had its last DUI on Oct. 9, 2006.

I will concede that this is a small squadron, but one can argue that Ammo troops also like to have a good time. Nonetheless, these warriors have proven that no one parties more responsibly either. At the end of all the weekend tales comes the best part, "...and then Airman Snuffy took us home."

I truly believe the secret of our success is found when following this train of thought. 9th MUNS has a lot of pride in what they do. Just listen for their chant when one of their personnel walks the stage at a promotion ceremony or an Airman Leadership School graduation dinner. That pride translates into, and is derived from, several shared activities. I've never seen a unit that does as many squadron morale events as these warriors.

These events create many friendships, and when these friendships become solidified they have a greater chance of taking care of each other off duty. When they are not together off duty, they still have a greater chance of calling each other because of the trust that has been built.

Do you see the connection? 9th MUNS is DUI-free in great part due to the relationships munitions Airmen have built with each other. These relationships are forged through working hard and playing hard as a unit.

Our squadron get-togethers are not the typical "rent-a-crowd event," where the senior NCOs feel pressured to get max participation. On the contrary, we have quite a few families attend every event, and everyone has a great time. For example, at our recent Thanksgiving potluck families were still mingling while the teardown crew was cleaning up. The squadron leadership is constantly planning the next big event to keep these relationships going.

I know this is not rocket science, but I hope this helps the unit leaders who are reading this. DUIs are preventable. Leaders can do something about it. Solutions are only out of reach when we believe they don't exist.