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Alcohol misuse poses dangers during summertime activities

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | May 25, 2017

Joint Base San Antonio, Texas --

A summer safety checklist compiled by the Air Force Safety Center’s occupational safety division focuses on the dangers people face when they travel, light up the barbecue grill or campfire and visit beaches, lakes and rivers.

The checklist acknowledges the role alcohol can play in summertime tragedies, especially as it pertains to travel and water-related activities.


“The best-case scenario is to not drink at all,” said Tech. Sgt. Steve McIntyre, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph NCO in charge of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Prevention and Treatment program. “But if you do, you should follow the 0-0-1-3 policy.”


That policy provides responsible guidelines – zero drinks for those under 21 years of age, zero driving-under-the-influence incidents, a maximum of one drink per hour and a maximum of three drinks per outing.


However, even one drink can be too much, said Capt. Erik Ringdahl, 359th Medical Operations Squadron Mental Health Flight clinical psychologist.


“One drink being too much is contingent upon, but not limited to, the size of the drink and alcohol content of the drink, as well as the individual’s drinking habits and ability to metabolize alcohol,” he said.


The physiological effects of alcohol on the body are numerous, Ringdahl said.


“Alcohol can impact the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, mouth and immune system,” he said. “Alcohol has also been shown to impact an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behavior.”


Alcohol use is especially problematic in the summer because of warmer temperatures, McIntyre said.


“Heat stress and dehydration are more likely in the summer, and alcohol can speed up that process,” he said. “That is why you should refrain from alcohol use when engaging in a strenuous physical activity such as football or volleyball.”


Because alcohol compromises judgment and affects coordination and reaction time, drivers should refrain from its use, McIntyre said, but abstinence is also important when engaging in summertime activities.


“Swimming and boating are common things to do in the summer, but those are not a good mix with alcohol,” he said. “Judgment and motor skills are the first to go.”


“Never drink and drive” applies to those who are piloting a boat as well as those who drive land vehicles, McIntyre said.


“Piloting a boat is like driving a car, so don’t drink,” he said.


Active-duty members should be mindful of the consequences of alcohol consumption because it can lead to public intoxication and DUI arrests along with legal and career ramifications.


“Legal and career consequences are administrative actions such as reduction in rank and pay, extra duties and dismissal from active duty as well as jail time,” Ringdahl said. “It can also become part of a person’s personal record.”


He advised Airmen to be responsible if alcohol is being consumed.


“Have a plan and stick to it,” Ringdahl said. “There should always be a sober wingman in the group.”


Airmen at JBSA can also rely on the Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving program to provide them with a safe ride home if they have been drinking. The AFADD call center, which is open from 10 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. Friday and Saturday, can be reached at 210-710-7171.