Malmstrom works to reduce DUI numbers among base personnel
In an effort to prevent drunk driving, Malmstrom Air Force Base has continued to host the Live or Die, during which base volunteers stage a car crash, a hospital scene, a family notification, funeral and more.
Tech Sgt. Jade Wyman, with the 341st Medical Group, is one of two drug and alcohol counselors on base and said the event is designed to show airmen the impact drunk driving can have on an airman’s life, family, friends and career.
A significant portion of the base population is in the 18-24 age range, a demographic that often feels invincible, said Col. Ron Allen, 341st Missile Wing commander.
“This is a very young base,” Wyman said.
The fourth annual event was April 27 and Wyman said this would be the first year base officials begin tracking the data to measure the impact the event has on the occurrence of drunk driving among base personnel.
Wyman said they’re trying to use the event as a preventative and educational tool to reduce drunk driving. Wyman said that over the years, feedback has indicated that the event is impactful, with airmen being able to see volunteers portray a mom crying over her dead daughter, killed by a drunk driver.
“It hits them really in the heart, they don’t want to put their parents through that, or their friends,” Wyman said.
With the help of about 60 volunteers from about 12 agencies across base, the scenes were played several times throughout the day for several hundred airmen and civilians.
Speaking before the scenario started, Allen said, “you’ve gotta let it change your decision making.”
The statistics are sobering, Allen said, and there have been about 30 DUIs from base personnel since he assumed command in April 2016. In 2017, there were 13 DUIs, Allen said, and nine as of the end of April for 2018.
It’s a small percentage of the base population, but Allen told The Electric that they want to lower the numbers further.
“You gotta help us with this,” he told airmen.
He asked that they make plans before going out to drink and ensure they have a safe way home.
“You’ve got to be your brother’s keeper,” he said. “Everyone on this base is your wingman, they will come get you.”
Allen told airmen that they’re living in a state with binge drinking and drunk driving problems. “That’s who’s on the road with you,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 932 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Montana from 2003-2012.
The percentage of adults who reported driving after drinking too much was 3.4 percent in Montana, compared to 1.9 percent nationwide, according to CDC data from 2012.
The Live or Die event at Malmstrom includes a stage crash scene with a male drunk driver. His passenger is seriously injured and the base fire department responds, transporting the passenger to a mock emergency room, where she’s pronounced dead.
A group of more than 100 airmen start the event watching that scene outside a hangar and then move into the hangar to view the mock ER scene, then move into a living room set up where volunteers act out a death notification scene. The woman playing the mother yells and sob, calling her daughter’s cell in the hopes that she’ll answer. The man playing the father flips a table and screams.
The group then moves to the booking scene with security forces where the driver is charged with reckless driving and murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, followed by a courtroom scene and the funeral.
Following the conclusion of the scenario, Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Hirschfield told the group a story of an airman he worked with who drove drunk and killed a civilian.
“It was entirely preventable,” Hirschfield said. “Always have a backup plan.”
Allen said that airmen getting DUIs can affect the mission of the base and “if you don’t care about your life, how about you care about those who love you.”
Base officials have created an alcohol/drug task force to research the statistics/problems and develop education and prevention tools, Allen said.