While military officials in Europe can’t give definitive answers to why the number of DUIs have fallen in recent years, they do cite a number of programs that help troops make the right decisions.

Air Force bases in the United Kingdom have clocks at the gates letting airmen know how many days the base has gone without a DUI, and a similar sign rests at the gates of the Navy base in Sigonella, Sicily.

At Naval Station Rota, a vehicle wrecked in an accident caused by a driver under the influence rests near the front gate to remind sailors of the consequences of drinking and driving. Posters also dot the base, and the base paper keeps track of offenders.

Airmen at RAF Mildenhall can generally detect an upcoming three-day weekend, because they’re required to attend a safety briefing just prior to getting the extra time off.

And soldiers based with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, spread out between locations in Italy and Germany, are told to have a plan in place when they go out drinking.

"If your plan is the least inebriated person drives home, you have no plan," said Maj. Tom Gilleran, the brigade’s public affairs officer.

If the plan breaks down, soldiers are told to call someone in the chain of command — no matter the hour — to come and pick them up. Gilleran said a supervisor or commander might not be smiling during the pickup, but a lecture the next day (and maybe a few pushups) will be more pleasant than a DUI citation.

Other bases, such as Naples, Italy and Ansbach, Germany, have programs that allow troops to take taxis home from the bars.

And in Schweinfurt, Germany, units and military police team up to go off base. Units are given individual-use Breathalyzers to use at gatherings. And the garrison commander and command sergeant major talk about drinking and driving during their weekly inprocessing briefs.

But sometimes, even the best plans fail.

Sailors in Sigonella recently were lectured in a column printed in the base newspaper by commanding officer, Capt. Thomas Quinn, regarding the high rate of DUIs.

Some sailors seemed to have planned for getting home after a night of drinking — then failed to think ahead to the morning after.

"[R]emember to include time to sober up the next day in that plan," Quinn wrote. A "surprising trend" in 2008 showed that tested sailors blew levels above Italy’s legal minimum of .05 percent the following morning.

"The problem was their plan didn’t account for the next morning and they were still drunk pulling through the gate after a full night of sleep," Quinn wrote.

author picture
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now