JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from throughout Joint Base San Antonio recently formed an alliance dedicated to reducing instances of drunk and impaired driving.
The Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving program, formed by service members and volunteers from all three JBSA locations, provides a call center Friday and Saturday that service members, Department of Defense civilian employees and military dependents can call for a safe ride home if they have been drinking.
In the nearly one month since inception, the organization has received a welcome response, said Staff Sgt. Thomas Forsthoefel, an instructor with the 343rd Training Squadron and AFADD Vice President.
"I came to (JBSA-Lackland) for a temporary duty a couple of months ago and we were briefed about an off-base program similar to AFADD. I just thought to myself, why was there no program on base," said Forsthoefel. "We take care of our own in the military, no matter what service they are in. Wing leadership has been really supportive with helping to get this off the ground and our volunteers are amazing."
Currently, the group operates out of the San Antonio Military Medical Center emergency room from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
When a call comes in, two volunteers travel to pick up the caller and take him or her home. Callers must agree to show valid military, dependent or DOD employee identification. Volunteers will not transport callers to other bars or parties.
"We're here as a last resort for those who had a plan before they began drinking, but for some reason, it didn't work out," Forsthoefel said. "The organization seeks to help service members make better decisions before they begin drinking to prevent situations where they or their friends are faced with the decision to drive home drunk."
Encouraging better decision-making skills before drinking is another goal of AFADD. Because JBSA is the largest joint installation in the DOD, they have the ability to reach more service members and help implement a culture shift where driving while under the influence of alcohol is no longer seen as an option, Forsthoefel said.
The group offers these tips for those looking to enjoy a safe night out:
· Have a designated driver who is not going to drink.
· Have enough money for a taxi for everyone in your group.
· Call a friend or supervisor to come get you.
· Get a hotel room beforehand near where your will be drinking.
While unexpected situations can always occur, being prepared can help prevent a serious accident or even a death. Though the center is only open on weekends, AAFDD encourages members to seek other avenues, use their resources and think smart before they take their first drink.
"We know people don't just drink on weekends, but anytime they do, they need to have a backup plan," Forsthoefel said. "There's too much on the line to be careless enough to get behind the wheel drunk. There are so many people willing to help if you just ask."
To reach a dispatcher, call 210-309-8767 Fridays and Saturdays. For more information about AFADD, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AFADDJointBaseSanAntonio or email them at email@example.com.