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Wing commander bans alcohol in Air Force dorms at Kaiserslautern

The 86th Airlift Wing commander has ordered all Air Force dormitories in the Kaiserslautern Military Community to be alcohol free zones, no possession or consumption. The ban, believed to be the first of its kind in USAFE, follows on the heels of restricted early-morning alcohol sales at on-base shoppettes in Kaiserslautern to reduce alcohol-related incidents.

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The Air Force has banned the consumption and possession of alcohol in and surrounding all of its base dormitories in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

Brig. Gen. Charles K. Hyde, the 86th Airlift Wing commander at Ramstein Air Base, directed the policy, which went into effect last week. The order applies to dormitory residents, as well as personnel on temporary duty and guests staying in the dormitories on Ramstein and Kapaun Air Station. It does not apply to Army barracks on Kaiserslautern-area bases, officials said.

The restriction comes on the heels of a ban on early-morning alcohol sales at the two 24-hour military shoppettes in Kaiserslautern, a policy also directed by Hyde amid concerns over alcohol-related incidents. It also comes as the Air Force chief of staff has vowed zero tolerance for sexual assault, a problem all the military services has been grappling with and one that’s often linked to alcohol consumption.

Currently, there are no other “alcohol-free” dormitories at Air Force bases in Europe, according to officials with U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa.

“Dormitories are an extension of the training environment and should provide safe quarters which enhance our culture of professionalism and discipline,” Hyde wrote in a March 7 memorandum to all dormitory residents. The alcohol prohibition, he said, “will foster an environment of dignity, trust and respect and reduce the potential for alcohol-related misconduct.”

About 1,000 airmen reside in the dormitories on Ramstein, and another 280 live in Kapaun’s dormitories, according to base officials.

The dorms are reserved for single, or married but unaccompanied, airmen in grades E-1 through E-3.

The legal drinking age on base is 18, according to base officials.

Dorm residents asked about the restriction Friday at Ramstein said there have been problems in the dormitories linked to drinking, so they understood the reasons for the ban.

“I actually like it,” said Airman 1st Class Vanessa Zapata. “With all the sexual assaults that have been happening, most of them are alcohol-related. Now that the dorms are co-ed, I think that it protects the females a lot more. I feel a little bit more secure, to be honest.”

Airman 1st Class Marc Howell, 25, brand new to Ramstein, said he had been looking forward to relaxing with a drink or two in his dorm room after work and regrets he won’t be able to do that. But, he said, “there are a lot of issues happening in the dorms,” from sexual assaults to airmen keeping others up during the week when they should be sleeping, he said.

Other airmen he knows who have lived in the dormitories for some time, however, aren’t happy about the restriction, he said.

“A lot of airmen that had been there a lot longer definitely don’t like this,” he said. “I think it’s going to do more good than harm.”

Anyone found to be violating the order could be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Hyde notes in the memorandum.

No additional dorm inspections are planned, according to wing officials, though unit leaders are expected to still conduct inspections regularly.

Stars and Stripes reporter Josh DeMotts contributed to this report. svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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