Aviano airmen warned that base's DUI rate is on the rise
May 3, 2006
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The numbers probably aren’t alarming to those who have followed the statistics.
But during a mandatory briefing Monday, Aviano airmen were reminded of the problems they routinely face. Chief among them is the abuse of alcohol.
“I think what today’s about is learning how to take care of ourselves and take care of fellow wingmen,” said Col. Steve Schrader, the wing’s vice commander, summing up a series of speakers’ messages after the afternoon session in Hangar One.
The common element — with a few exceptions — was: Use good judgment, especially when it comes to alcohol.
Wing personnel have been charged with 18 driving-under- the-influence violations about halfway through fiscal 2006, according to Lt. Col. Todd Phinney, the wing’s chief of safety, making it doubtful the wing will achieve its goal of limiting its DUIs to 22 for the year. There were 26 in fiscal 2005.
“Zero DUIs is what we shoot for,” Phinney said. “That’s our goal. But you’ve got to start somewhere.”
Anyone caught behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 can be cited in Italy. But Phinney said the average for those from Aviano caught this year is 0.22.
“These are folks who haven’t just had a beer or two or a shot or a glass of wine during the course of an evening,” he said.
About half of those issued DUIs ran off the road and struck some kind of object.
Base personnel have been involved in 66 major vehicle accidents so far this year. That’s on track to be less than the 151 reported last year, but above the year’s goal of no more than 106. Phinney said poor judgment, too much speed and a lack of understanding of Italian driving conditions are contributing to the high numbers.
Airmen also were told that 86 percent of the 75 sexual assaults reported throughout USAFE since June involved the use of alcohol.
Senior Airman Dominick Griego drew a standing ovation after sharing his lifelong problems with alcohol abuse and suggesting ways that individual airmen and their supervisors could take on the problem.
The only presentation that didn’t involve alcohol was an update on avian flu. Airmen were urged to contact the proper authorities if they find evidence of sick or dead migratory birds. No cases have been reported near Aviano.