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AADD saves lives, careers, in the KMC

A crumpled Airman Battle Uniform cap lies on a table next to a key set, beer bottle, and beer mug at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 20, 2017. The Airman Against Drunk Driving program is available at many Air Force Bases and aims to prevent cases of DUI among Airmen. (U.S. Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

A crumpled Airman Battle Uniform cap lies on a table next to a key set, beer bottle, and beer mug at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 20, 2017. The Airman Against Drunk Driving program is available at many Air Force Bases and aims to prevent cases of DUI among Airmen. (U.S. Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Airmen and their families at Ramstein Air Base, Germany brag about the many perks of being stationed here: the opportunities to travel, the vibrant culture, the world-famous castles, and of course—the alcohol.

In Germany, the drinking age is 16—at least for beer and wine. The beer, served in towering glass with the foamy head spilling over, is rumored to be cheaper than water in some locations.

Thus, the struggle against the temptation of drinking on a night you’re supposed to be driving is real. Even designated drivers may not be a fool-proof plan for a weekend of partying.

This is why volunteers with Airmen Against Drunk Driving stand ready to take military members home in case the designated driver leaves the party early or is otherwise unable to drive.

Airmen Against Drunk Driving is a program available on many Air Force installations, including Ramstein. The program not only serves Airmen, but all members of the U.S. military.

“Sometimes your plans don’t always make it through the night,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Tidwell, 603rd Air Communications Squadron quality assurance evaluator and AADD president at Ramstein. “Some people (the designated driver) may end up leaving, or they may have had a drink and are not prepared to drive. AADD is a program designed to take care of those individuals.”

Tidwell clarified that AADD is not meant to be a primary plan for those who have been drinking, but as a safety net for those whose plans fall through.

He stressed the importance of AADD, saying those who use the program’s services save themselves from the dire consequences of drinking and driving.

“We’re trying to eliminate DUIs, DWIs--those types of incidences,” Tidwell said. “Obviously the program is not perfect and we can’t eliminate all of them, but the goal is zero.”

The effects of a DUI to an Airman’s career are devastating.

Consequences can include, but are not limited to, reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay and allowances, dishonorable discharge and imprisonment.

Tech. Sgt. William Komula, 603rd Air Operations Center NCO in charge of maintenance operations and AADD treasurer, added that people who drink and drive not only put themselves at risk, but others as well.

“Lots of people forget it’s all the others around who are affected as well–innocent people who might be walking down the street and get hit by a drunk driver.” Komula explained. “So we want to do our best to help mitigate that; to help provide alternative options to make smart choices, look out for each other, and practice our core values.”

Komula recalled an experience he had at his first duty station, when he and his friends went out to enjoy the weekend and suddenly found themselves in a predicament. A miscommunication had occurred: the person who was supposed to be the designated thought that another person was going to drive, and so ended up drinking as well.

Thankfully Komula’s unit had a similar program to AADD, and someone was able to bring them home.

“None of us made any bad choices that night; I thought, ‘oh, this is awesome,’” Komula said. “Had we been knuckleheads and made the wrong choice—we all know what happens if we go down that road.”

This event was one of the experiences Komula pointed to as his inspiration for joining AADD, and is one of the many success stories which drive the program’s volunteers to move forward with their mission: to save lives and careers.