LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – Summertime is almost here. The smell of barbecue is in the air. Children are out of school, and it’s the perfect time to plan a getaway.
Summer is all about having fun, and throwing back a few cold ones is a common way to beat the heat. The Critical Days of Summer Campaign, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, has been around for more than 20 years. One of the campaign’s goals is to raise awareness of the hazards of alcohol.
“The Air Force has created this campaign to bring emphasis on these critical days and also to prepare Airmen at all levels to handle the hazards and challenges we find throughout the summer,” said Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing Ground Safety manager.
U.S. Air Force statistics show that summer injuries increase with the use of alcohol.
“We find in a lot of our other activities, whether barbecuing or off-duty recreation, a lot of injuries hinge around the use of alcohol,” Bruce said. “We have a big chunk of our young Airmen moving through the system who are that age and engaged in high-risk activities. You put alcohol in the mix you’ve got a dangerous situation.”
Statistics show that junior Airmen and officers are more often involved in alcohol-related incidents.
“Between ages 18 and 26, most of us are 10-feet tall and bulletproof,” Bruce said. “The challenge is balancing that natural aggression and desire to push the limits by learning boundaries and using alcohol responsibly.”
Airmen and family members can better prepare themselves this summer by having a plan and knowing their limits before they begin any activity.
“We recommend the zero, zero, one, three plan,” Bruce said. “Zero underage drinking, zero DUIs, one drink an hour, three drinks maximum. That goes for the standard beer, shot of whiskey or a glass of wine.
“It’s a good tool to use,” he said. “It prevents you from being irresponsible and certainly from binge drinking, which is a serious concern. You want to stay well below that .08 limit, and the best way to do that is the zero, zero, one three plan. Anything other than that and you’re rolling the dice.”
The critical days of summer campaign is about promoting a culture of responsibility while enjoying summertime activities.
“Everybody needs to take responsibility for themselves,” said Capt. Julie Beyer, 56th Fighter Wing Staff Judge Advocate military justice chief. “As a culture we should be looking out for each other. If you’re going to be drinking, know that there is assistance through Airmen Against Drunk Driving, taxis, having a designated driver or calling a friend to come get you.Just make the choice and have a plan in place.”
Another goal during the critical days of summer is to promote responsibility through the ranks to curb incidents involving alcohol.
“The most important people are the immediate supervisors of the Airmen,” Bruce said. “They are the most influential. It starts with the front-line supervisor. When they get involved good things happen.”
DUIs increase during the summer, however those numbers have been declining the last three years with the help of frontline supervisors, Bruce said.
“There were 19 DUIs last year and five so far this year; however, if we don’t curb them, we are on track to repeat those numbers,” he said.
Though the goal of the critical days of summer campaign is to keep Airmen and their families safe during the summer, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
“We are not prohibitionist in the safety business,” Bruce said. “We don’t want to make you stop using alcohol. We just want you to use it responsibly. That will eliminate a lot of things like underage drinking, DUIs and binge drinking.”