The number of alcohol related incidents is on rise according to the Second Infantry Division Weekly Bulletin:
NEW ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION POLICY: New! Effective 8 FEB, the Division Commander issued a new policy on responsible alcohol consumption. It is our responsibility to assure that none of us are released from duty on 9 FEB until each of us fully understands this policy.
You won’t believe what the new policy is.Â Soldiers even while off duty cannot have a blood alcohol content level above .10%.Â What is behind the rise in alcohol related incidents that would cause such a drastic measure to be implemented?Â Here is your answer:
DRINK RESPONSIBLY: In January 2ID passed the 100 mark for Soldiers involved in alcohol or drug-related blotters for this fiscal year. This puts us ahead of our FY06 pace, which was itself an increase over 2005. Underage drinking has been a significant contributor to this unfortunate trend. If you are under 21 — donâ€™t drink! If you are of legal drinking age, then drink in moderation and donâ€™t tolerate or encourage your buddy to drink who is not of legal drinking age. Every Soldier and leader has a part to play in preventing underage drinking and alcohol abuse.
So the policy to stop underage drinkers is “don’t drink!” while the strategy to stop the increase in alcohol related incidents due to the underage drinkers is to punish everyone. Will soldiers have to carry breathalyzers with them to the ville now to test themselves after every drink? How many good soldiers are going to get prosecuted under this policy and have their careers adversely effected because they blew a .12% BAC? The soldiers that want to binge drink are now going to move out of the ville to avoid the breathalyzer bandits and stay out all night in other entertainment areas outside the ville where the breathalyzer bandits are not at and then just stay at hotel so the gate guards with breathalyzers don’t catch them.
Any bets if curfew violations will go up because of this policy? I can see it now some soldier coming back from the ville worried about blowing over a .10% and instead of taking their chances with breathalyzer the soldier decides to go hide in a alley somewhere or find a hotel for the night. In process of doing this he gets spotted by the MPs and picked up.
I have been saying this for a long time, but why do we allow underage drinkers into drinking establishments in the ville to begin with?Â If it illegal for them to drink than why are underage drinkers allowed to go into a sleazy bar that pushes booze and scantily clad women on them all night? This is a temptation that to many young soldiers cannot overcome.Â If the command wants to solve the underage drinking problem all you have to do is deny the underage drinkers from entering the clubs in the ville and then anyone entering the gate underage you make them take a breathalyzer.Â That prevents them from wandering to other entertainment areas outside the ville to drink and then trying to get back on post. If the unit CQ is properly signing people out before they leave the barracks you can track if they went back into their room or not that night. Knowing that soldiers are smarter than we give them credit for, they will try to get around this by having their buddy at CQ hook them up and sign them in for them so they can stay out all night and avoid the breathalyzer at the gate.Â Do a few random 6AM formations on Friday and Saturday morning to account for everyone and you will be amazed how quickly this problem is rectified.
This leaves underage drinkers two options, drink in their rooms or get a pass from the First Sergeant to stay in a hotel for the weekend to escape the breathalyzer bandits. If a soldier wants to drink in his room and play X-Box all night, personally I really don’t care. A random barracks patrol roster with all your E-7s and up on it every weekend tends to keep them honest. Something that also helps is to have designated underage rooms. Don’t organize the barracks where you have underage and legal age drinkers mixed together. This once again is shoving alcohol in the face of underage soldiers, especially when the legal age soldier has the fridge stocked with his beers.Â I have busted underage drinkers before in the barracks by simply knocking on the door of a underage room. The underage soldier opened the door holding a beer.Â After you bust a few guys like this the underage soldiers learn to keep quiet and stay in their rooms if they are going to drink. As far as underage guys going on pass this is where the First Sergeant needs to use a lot of discretion and only put underage people on pass that he/she trusts will not get into trouble.
Is this plan full proof and will stop all incidents? No it won’t, but I am certain my suggestions would bring down the number of underage drinkers and it focuses solely on the group that is causing the problems, the underage drinkers. No where in my suggestions are all the soldiers in the division punished for the actions of a few. It is easy just to implement a blanket policy on everyone and be done it, especially with all the outside pressure I’m sure the 2ID Commanding General is getting hit with right now to cut down alcohol related incidents, but soldiers appreciate creative leadership that focuses on solving a problem with minimum impact on everyone else.
In the years I have been following USFK issues it seems like every time a new general comes in they face the same problem the commander before them faced and the new general issues blanket policies similar to the last guy that didn’t solve the problem then and won’t solve the problem now. Former 2ID commanders General Honore, Wood, Higgins, and now Coggin have all had their fair share of alcohol related incidents and underage drinkers. Mass punishment policies that have a short term impact that looks good on Powerpoint slides are always implemented, but in the long run the same issues will persist and rise again at the expense of the morale of all the soldiers in Korea.
Any bets that the next 2ID commander will be facing these same problems when he takes over?Â It seems nothing ever changes except the name of the commanding general.