An Airman's Story: DUI and the Road to Recovery

  • Published
  • By Anonymous
  • U.S. Air Force
(Editor's note: This is an update to an article that was published April 3, 2009 in the Kaiserslautern-American Newspaper, which is attached at the end of this article.)

This is an update to an article I wrote while stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for the local Kaiserslautern-American Newspaper, detailing my Article 15 punishment for driving under the influence. It has been more than four years since I received that Article 15, and I am still trying to get my career back on track.

When I was served my Article 15, I was given a choice to stay in the service or get out. I knew that I wasn't finished with the Air Force, and that I could recover, so I elected to stay in. However, staying in was no easy task. With a reduction in rank from E5 to E4, my career progression took a huge step backward. I went back to day one as a Senior Airman. That meant every Senior Airman that I was supervising the day before, now out ranked me. It is a humbling experience. The following year, I was allowed to retest for E5, and even though I made Staff Sergeant again, I am still 2-3 years behind my peers.

Establishing your credibility is one of the hardest parts when recovering from a DUI. Gaining the trust of your leadership, while already being prejudged as a troublemaker, is one of the many obstacles you must face. It took me three years, two deployments, two decorations, making Staff Sergeant the first time again, three quarterly awards, and being appointed NCO in charge of a work center to know that I had once again established my credibility.

Bottom line, it is possible to bounce back after a DUI. In the AF, you have a lot of control over your career path. You can take risks, and you can avoid risks. You can learn the easy way, or you can learn the hard way. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to recover. Have a plan, drink responsibly, and make good decisions.
DUIs can happen to anyone--make the right choice

Have you ever had one of those days that felt like the world came to a screeching halt? For me, that day was Jan. 24.

I was apprehended for driving under the influence of alcohol. Before this, I was considered one of the top performers in my squadron, but getting a DUI has made all of my accomplishments null-and-void. The official punishment for a DUI can be swift, but the indirect punishment is prolonged because of the stigma attached.
DUIs can happen to anyone consuming alcohol at any given time, even if it is their first time getting behind the wheel. You can be the very best in your squadron and still lose all credibility after one night of poor decisions. They are not limited to substandard individuals, people with alcohol problems or people under 26.

I have numerous awards and decorations including three achievement medals, Airman Leadership School distinguished graduate, Senior Airman below-the-zone and Airman of the Quarter; now, it all means nothing.

I urge everyone reading this to make the right choice; have a plan, and stick to it.
Your commander has a variety of options when it comes to punishment.

First, he or she must decide whether to court-martial or use non-judiciapunishment. A court-martial can lead to more severe actions. I was punished under Article 15. I was reduced from E-5 to E-4, my wages were garnished by $1,063 a month for two months, I received 14 days of extra duty, a UIF and I was reprimanded. Outside of the Article 15, I also lost a great assignment, lost my driving privileges for one year, got a referral EPR rating and a blemish to my military service record. It could take me a year or longer to recover from everything, but the stigma could last my whole career.

Everyone has been briefed on DUIs before. We all say that it won't happen to us, but it still happens. Everyone is able to prevent this by watching out for their friends, making legitimate plans and setting limits when they're drinking. Don't get overconfident and let alcohol make decisions for you. Take a step back, asses your situation and make the right choice.

Published April 3, 2009, Kaiserslautern American