2nd ID limits soldiers to .10 blood alcohol level
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Soldiers with the 2nd Infantry Division have been ordered to keep their blood alcohol concentration below .10 or they could face punishment.
“Each soldier is responsible for knowing when he or she is above the BAC ‘limit,’ just as drivers ensure they must not drive a vehicle when their BAC reaches or exceeds a certain limit,” according to a new policy released Thursday by division commander Maj. Gen. James Coggin.
Soldiers who exceed the limit are subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to the letter.
The new rule was ordered, the letter stated, to “ensure that irresponsible alcohol consumption does not deter 2ID from accomplishing its armistice training or wartime fighting mission.”
The 2nd Infantry Division had more than 100 alcohol-related incidents cited in military police reports in January, an increase over both January 2005 and January 2006, according to the division’s weekly bulletin. Underage drinking was a “significant contributor” to those citations, according to the bulletin.
But 2nd ID officials declined to provide exact figures on the incidents, saying they believe the higher numbers were the result of enhanced reporting and detection of alcohol-related incidents.
“This increase in reported incidents demonstrates greater leader and soldier involvement in correcting misuse of alcohol and in discipline” said Col. Mike Feil, 2nd ID chief of staff.
The new policy letter directs all units to coordinate quarterly training with officials from substance abuse programs to show soldiers “what the .10 BAC level is and what effects an above-.10-BAC has.”
Out of several randomly selected soldiers at Camp Red Cloud on Friday, none could say exactly how much they could drink before reaching a .10 blood alcohol level. However, most guessed a number lower than their weights might indicate.
Soldiers said they respected the general’s decision and hoped that the policy could cut alcohol-related incidents, but they also had their misgivings.
“I think it’s going to be bad for morale,” said Pfc. Michael Stafford, who says he does not drink alcohol. “It’s stressful out here. We’re away from everything and people want to go out and have a good time.”
Pfc. Kolubah Beyan, of 2nd ID’s headquarters company, said the new policy is much needed.
“However, it always comes down to a person’s responsibility,” said Beyan, a self-described infrequent drinker.
How well the policy works will depend on how it is implemented, said Sgt. Bobby Cumby of 2nd ID’s Special Troops Battalion.
It could encourage soldiers to drink less or could encourage them to stay off-post later for fear of having their blood alcohol level tested when they return, he said.
“It has its pluses and minuses,” Cumby said. “Hopefully it will take down the number of incidents, but it kind of hurts the people who haven’t been doing anything wrong.”
The policy letter includes a chart of approximate blood alcohol levels corresponding with weight and number of drinks.
However, the policy letter states that the chart should be used “as general guidance only”; gender, food, body composition and several other factors also play a role in blood alcohol levels.
Unit commanders at all levels can order a blood alcohol test based on “probable cause” that a soldier’s blood alcohol level is above .10, according to the letter.
“‘Probable cause’ is defined as a reasonable belief that a person is, in this case, intoxicated beyond the .10 limit,” wrote 2nd ID Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Walt Hudson in an e-mail response. “It is not a mere suspicion or hunch but based on current and relevant information.”
Inability to walk, slurred speech and alcohol odor are included among probable-cause considerations, Hudson said.
Although military police carry breath analysis testers, only legal tests administered in base medical clinics will be used to officially determine blood alcohol levels, officials said.
Battalion-level commanders have the authority to handle alcohol-related offenses but may delegate those responsibilities, the policy says. They may use their discretion to send offending soldiers to counseling classes.
Factors that affect blood alcohol level
Factors that affect how quickly the blood alcohol level rises in the body include:
Number of drinks per hour.Proof or percentage of alcohol in the drink.Weight: More weight means more body water, which dilutes alcohol and lowers the blood alcohol level.Body composition: Alcohol does not permeate fat cells as well as other tissues, so people with higher body fat compositions may have higher blood alcohol levels.Gender: Premenstruation, birth control pills and estrogen medication may cause the body to retain higher alcohol levels. Women generally also have less water in their bodies and less of a liver enzyme called dehydrogenase, meaning less alcohol dilution and less ability to metabolize alcohol.Age: A blood alcohol concentration may be higher in an older adult than in a younger adult with similar physical characteristics.A full stomach: Food absorbs some alcohol, and a full stomach lowers blood alcohol level before and after drinking.The kind of mixer used: When carbonated mixers are used, the body absorbs alcohol more quickly.Sources: WebMD, Brown University Web site, National Institutes of Health