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Units make DUIs personal

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

For most people, September 9, 2011, was just like any other day. The weather was warm and the sun was out as summer was winding down.

However, for Todd and Jaimi Calfee, that is one day they and their family will never forget as a drunk driver took the life of their daughter, Alexis, and her boyfriend, Christopher Oberg.

“We call it our own personal 9-11,” he said. “We have never been the same since that day.”

The Calfee’s shared their personal, heart-wrenching story with members of the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 97th Intelligence Squadron during four all-calls designed to make driving drunk personal to the units.

Recently, Team Offutt has seen an uptick in DUIs and so commanders have been challenged by wing leadership to ensure their units know the ramifications.

For Lt. Col. Angela Edmondson, 55th AMXS commander, she knew they needed a different approach and teamed up with the 97th IS to put together an impactful presentation.

“I can distinctly remember the first time I was part of a squadron that had a DUI,” she said. “The commander took a negative, almost punitive approach for the entire unit and I remember thinking, this is not helping me. This did nothing to change my perspective.”

What did change her perspective was losing someone close to her due to a drunk driver and also having someone she knew very well lose their career because of a poor choice.

So how would she convey that to her squadron?

“I knew I needed to make it personal,” she said. “And that’s what these (all-calls) were about.”

The Calfee’s came to Offutt from Lincoln to share their story as they have done quite often across the state over the past six years.

“After Alexis’ death, there were days that I had to drag myself out of bed,” said Jaimi. “On one of those days I laid there and wondered about how we could change things. That following December, Todd spoke for the first time (about the death) to the Lincoln Police Department.”

Now the two find themselves as advocates for designated drivers through the alexis PROJECT, or taP. The non-profit organization was founded to keep Alexis’ memory alive and help prevent more deaths due to drunk driving.

“This isn’t something we really like to talk about and we’re not here to preach,” said Todd. “Life is all about making choices and all we ask is that people make the right choice.”

In addition to the Calfee’s, an active duty Airmen also spoke at both AMXS sessions about his recent DUI, which will result in his separation from the Air Force due to higher tenure.

“I’ve lost a lot and it was all due to one poor choice,” he said. “Ultimately, I wanted to come out here and press upon you all to make the right choice.”

The former technical sergeant had led an impressive Air Force career, full of distinguished graduate honors and individual awards, but it will be a DUI that ultimately defines his career.

“None of what I did in my fifteen year career could stop the one poor decision I made,” he said. “None of that matters now. My time is done.”

He also pointed out that beyond the career and monetary impact of his poor decision, the long term ramifications it has had on his family has been the toughest for him to swallow.

“When I told my oldest son (about the DUI), all of the pride he had in (me serving in the Air Force), was gone,” he said. “Having to face your children and telling them because you didn’t make the right choice that their lives are now affected, hit me the hardest.”

The all-calls ended with a discussion about having a plan by SrA John Nienhaus, Offutt Against Drunk Driving president. OADD is a designated driving program organized and ran by more than 100 Team Offutt Airmen.

“I would encourage you all to have a plan in place if you’re going out to drink,” he said. “Pick a designated driver, get an Uber, call a taxi, or contact us.”

Nienhaus said OADD has Airmen standing by on Fridays and Saturdays as well as the day prior to family days and holidays from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. to assist.

“We have drivers waiting for you all to call,” he said. “It’s very simple. We go pick you up and take you home, no questions asked.”

As the unit dispersed, Edmondson said she hoped the speaker’s message of making the right decision hit home with everyone.

“I hope this showed them what a DUI will do to them,” she said. “There’s no doubt that it can change the course of someone’s life forever.”