Combating rising stats: AADD provides safe avenue for Airmen to get home

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. James Wilkinson
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
In 2006, there have already been 11 alcohol-related traffic deaths in Delaware.

So far, there have been three reported DUIs at Dover Air Force Base. Last year, there was a total of 26 DUIs reported on base, which reflected an 18 percent increase from 2004, according to the 436th Security Forces Squadron.

With a rise in DUIs over the past year, it is important that Airmen have an alternative to driving home while under the influence of alcohol.

Every weekend, Dover volunteers offer their off-duty time to help prevent Airmen from becoming another statistic under the watch of the Airmen Against Drunk Driving program.

"The AADD program is a tool that the men and women of Dover Air Force Base have available to use when they have drank alcohol, and as a result, are unable to drive themselves home," said Staff Sgt. Jason Karras, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution supervisor and Airmen Against Drunk Driving vice president.

AADD's mission at Dover is to save lives by offering rides to Airmen who are above the legal limit for drinking alcohol and safely operating a motor vehicle.

They aim to eliminate DUIs on Dover AFB by working with the 436th Medical Group and Health and Wellness Center, or HAWC, to promote awareness and educate the community about alcohol abuse.

"Basically, the AADD program is a last resort that the men and women of Dover Air Force Base have available to use when they have had too much to drink, and as a result, are unable to drive themselves home," said Senior Airman Sara Beth Link, 512th Security Forces Squadron and AADD president. "We ask everyone to take a designated driver, but in the event your 'DD' becomes unavailable, AADD will be there to help," said Airman Link.

Dover's AADD program started in January 2001 and has saved more than 2,200 lives since its conception, according to Airman Link.

AADD considers a "life saved" if they prevent someone from driving under the influence and possibly harming themselves or others.

Operations are carried out of the Airman's Center, Building 439, on 12th Street. Servicemembers can utilize AADD's services Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

The program is made up completely of volunteers from each squadron within the 436th Airlift Wing. Squadrons are placed onto a rotating schedule - which can be found on the G network drive in the AADD Folder - and assigned a weekend to contribute.

AADD runs two volunteer shifts every Friday and Saturday. One from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. and another from 1 to 3 a.m. When volunteers arrive for their shift, they wait at the Airman's Center until a call comes in. At the center, they can watch movies or surf the internet while waiting for a calls.

Each shift has one charge of quarters, or more commonly called CQ position, who attends the phone and keeps a log of calls, plus a minimum of two drivers.

When someone calls for a ride, a team of two drivers will take one of their personal vehicles to the location - anywhere within the limits of Kent County - of the individual requesting assistance.

To locate people more easily, AADD asks for servicemembers' first names when they call.

"When somebody calls we never take last names, only first names to protect the identity of our callers," said Airman Link. "The program is 100 percent confidential so no matter who picks you up, there will be no repercussions."

Currently, two volunteers pick up the caller and their vehicle and bring them home; however, there are some upcoming changes to this area of the program's operation.

Beginning May 1, new methods of operation will be put into effect where AADD volunteers will no longer bring the caller's vehicle back to their residence. This is partly due to various legal issues that could arise when volunteers drive other's cars such as traffic accidents and insurance issues.

"We're trying to reinforce a culture of responsible choices and making correct decisions using AADD as a last resort after making plans before going out to socialize," said Chief Master Sgt. Bruce Blodgett, 436th AW command chief and AADD advisor for the wing. "We hope that people will continue to use the program as they did before, but we don't want to enable people to rely on AADD as their first choice."

Anyone can volunteer for the program, there are no rank restrictions on who can participate, and so far, the program has had 237 volunteers this year.

"People are needed every weekend for AADD," said Sergeant Karras. "We are here to help out and keep our friends and co-workers safe. We ask for volunteers to keep the program operational. Without (volunteer) support, we could not keep AADD open."

There are numerous benefits to volunteering for AADD.

"The first time I volunteered I did it for an (Enlisted Performance Report) bullet. After I did it, I realized I liked helping out fellow Airmen in need and that is why I volunteer my time now as the vice president. I want to be able to make changes that will help out more Airmen in the future," said Sergeant Karras.

Airman Link offers another take on why people should volunteer.

"Look at it this way, three hours of sitting in the Airman's Attic, chilling with people, watching movies, or being online while waiting for a call, is an EPR bullet," she said. "What do you really have to lose? In the end you should have a feeling of accomplishment because you have done something good, and you very well - just by picking someone up - saved there life."

There are more advantages of utilizing AADD's services as way for preventing DUIs.

"Drinking and driving is not worth it, you will get caught, whether or not you're coming on base or driving off base. And in the end it's just not worth all the trouble you're going to get in. Stripes can be taken, extra duty can be assigned and your career can be ruined," concluded Airman Link.

To use this anonymous and safe ride home on weekends and holidays, Airmen can call (866) 677-2233 or 677-AADD.