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Air Force plots path to Culture of Responsible Choices

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- For years, the Air Force has prided itself on a "Work Hard/Play Hard" ethic.

However, Air Force leaders are increasingly concerned that Airmen might be playing a little too hard. A service-wide increase in alcohol related incidents, among other indicators, has led to the introduction of a new ethic: Work hard, and play smart.

"We're not trying to force Airmen to make any particular decisions," said Capt. Scott Smith, chairman of Offutt's new Culture of Responsible Choices committee. "Our goal is to educate people so that when they go out to relax and unwind, they find smart and responsible ways to do it."

The new committee, CORC, is part of an effort by the Air force to not only reduce alcohol related incidents, Capt. Smith said, but to reduce related problems such as family violence and sexual assaults. The initiative has been charged with reducing such incidents by 25 percent within the first year of its inception, the captain said.

Committee members noted that even after a 25-percent reduction, Offutt would still set a record for DUIs in 2006. So far the base has accumulated 38 DUIs this year, compared to 42 for all of 2005.

"It just shows that alcohol related incidents are a problem on base, and we need to take steps to help eliminate them," said Senior Airman Heather Bellar, president of Offutt's Airmen Against Drunk Driving. "Getting a DUI impacts people both personally and professionally, so people need to start making smarter decisions and avoiding the circumstances that lead to a DUI."

Those circumstances, according to committee members, almost always have a common element: people who go out to drink don't have a plan to get home safely. Instead, they take their chances and drive home, sometimes with disastrous results.

To help encourage people to make smarter choices, the CORC will be looking for educational opportunities that present information relevant to Airmen, according to Capt. Smith.

"People understand by now that getting a DUI will ruin your career," he said, "so belaboring that point isn't going to help us. Instead, we need to get Airmen information that will be useful for them when making plans, so they don't get into a situation where a DUI might happen."

If nothing else, Airman Bellar added, Offutt Airmen still have AADD.

"We have four drivers ready every night to help people get home if they can't do so safely. Relying on AADD isn't a plan, but if your plan falls, through, we're here to help," she said.

"It's still possible to drink and have fun," she added, "but people need to be smart about it, and that's our goal."