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Chief Petty Officer David Zingraf administers a breathalyzer test to Seaman Apprentice Kyle Halverson during a recent Souda Team 21 class at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Crete. Souda Team 21 is program designed and taught by the base’s chief petty officers to help educate newly reporting sailors under 21 on how to drink responsibly.

Chief Petty Officer David Zingraf administers a breathalyzer test to Seaman Apprentice Kyle Halverson during a recent Souda Team 21 class at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Crete. Souda Team 21 is program designed and taught by the base’s chief petty officers to help educate newly reporting sailors under 21 on how to drink responsibly. (Paul Farley / Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Most sailors don’t know how to drink, so Master Chief Petty Officer Jerry Daniels is going to show them.

When Daniels checked in as the command master chief at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, he wanted to know how young sailors learn to drink.

“I got various answers — friends, high school [classmates], and on a very rare occasion, parents,” he said in a phone interview from Crete.

Most sailors, he said, had never learned how to drink responsibly.

Since those under 21 can drink legally — on- and off-base — in Souda Bay, Daniels wanted to ensure that the sailors knew all about alcohol before it could become a problem.

“It’s an invaluable life skill,” he said about responsible drinking, explaining that it’s just as important to sailors as learning money management, communications skills and proper eating habits.

So the command’s chief petty officers created the Team Souda 21 program, which is required for all arriving sailors under 21. And until they complete the program, the sailors aren’t allowed to drink.

The program is a mix of classroom instruction and computerized training courses. Instruction ranges from the monetary effects that arise from alcohol-related incidents to stress management.

“We try to show them … how [alcohol abuse] affects the Navy, their careers, their families and their friends,” said program instructor Chief Petty Officer Ralph Oyster, who also serves as the command’s drug-and-alcohol program adviser.

The program isn’t designed to replace existing programs, such as the Personal Responsibility and Values: Education and Training, or P.R.E.V.E.N.T., course. P.R.E.V.E.N.T. covers a broad area of behaviors, including drinking, but Souda’s program focuses entirely on responsible drinking.

Part of the Souda program, for a few volunteers at least, actually involves drinking. One classroom session includes volunteers having two drinks in a 40-minute period, then measuring the effects with a breathalyzer every 20 minutes.

During one recent class, 19-year-old Seaman Apprentice Kyle Halverson drank two 5-ounce glasses of wine 20 minutes apart, and an hour later blew above the Greek legal limit for driving.

“It opens your eyes to what alcohol does to you,” he said, explaining he didn’t feel impaired in any way.

“The third time they blow, they’re amazed,” said Daniels.

Daniels said he hopes that the program won’t just keep sailors from having alcohol-related incidents during their tours at Souda Bay, but the lessons will follow them for their entire lives.

“We don’t want a problem to arise two or three years down the road,” he said. “Alcohol abuse leads to nothing positive in relationships — either personal or professional.”

And in a small command like Souda Bay, on a relatively small island like Crete, alcohol-related incidents not only affect the sailors and their jobs, but also local community members and their perceptions of the Navy.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Cherie Day, 20, is on her second 12-month tour in Souda Bay. She says the program’s had a positive impact on the junior sailors and should be implemented Navywide.

“Drinking problems are not unique to Souda,” said Day, who is a master-at-arms with base security. “This is a way to hold people accountable for their actions.”

“I tell you, I wish this program was around when I was coming up [in the Navy],” said Oyster.


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