Soldiers from the 7th Military Information Support Battalion, 4th Military Information Support Group, gathered at Pope Theater to conduct unit safety awareness training, Jan. 12.
The training, facilitated by officers and military police of the Fort Bragg Provost Marshal office traffic section, provided information and practical exercises about the dangers of drinking and driving.
According to Officer Ken Scott, Fort Bragg MPs caught 331 drunk drivers in 2016.
However, Scott cautioned that statistically, law enforcement only intercepts one out of every five drivers operating above the legal limit, and that the majority of drunk driving occurs during daylight hours. Therefore, drivers should exercise caution at all times.
The training consisted of a brief followed by an audience participation event, in which Soldiers donned “drunk goggles,” meant to simulate various levels of drunkenness. Soldiers then attempted to complete simple tasks such as catching a ball or walking in a straight line.
It was at this point that the training event took a departure from the regular alcohol safety training that Soldiers have become accustomed to through repetition.
A senior non-commissioned officer and company grade officer had been selected beforehand. These two of-age volunteers arrived in civilian attire and had prearranged rides home.
When they went on stage, the officers administrated a field sobriety test. Following the test, which they both passed easily, the two moved to a small table and began what was called “the wet-lab test.”
At the table before them were two bottles of liquor and two glasses. They began to drink.
Over the next half hour, each would imbibe about seven ounces of 40 percent alcohol by volume. After the initial drinks, the battalion moved outdoors to an adjacent parking lot.
There they found more officers from the traffic division, a golf cart and a simple course of orange cones. As the two volunteers continued to drink at regular intervals — abstaining from cart driving — the other Soldiers took turns donning the “drunk goggles” and attempting to make their way through the course unscathed. Many orange cones were flattened.
All the while, Scott continued to reiterate the perils of poor decision making with alcohol.
“Those that die in car crashes involving alcohol are usually within five miles of their destination,” Scott cautioned, enforcing the fact that blood alcohol content typically continues to rise after a person has stopped drinking.
To illustrate this point, the volunteers took a Breathalyzer examination at the half hour mark, when they had stopped drinking. Both blew in the .07 range, just inside the legal limit of .08 for blood alcohol content while operating a motor vehicle.
An hour later, both blew again and were subjected to a field sobriety test. While one volunteer, weighing 205 pounds, passed the Breathalyzer with a .07 BAC, he failed the field sobriety test. MPs at the event declared that had he been driving, he would have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence.
Despite his BAC being under the legal limit, he still displayed a high level of impairment.
The second volunteer, weighing 120 pounds, failed both tests, blowing a .11 for BAC, an increase over the last hour despite having stopped drinking.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Parrish, senior enlisted advisor for 4th MISG, observed the training and shared some of his thoughts about the event.
“This sort of practical training is excellent,” Parrish said. “It’s going to show you the effect alcohol has on two very different types of people.”
Parrish wasn’t the only one impressed by the scope and depth of the training event. Across the battalion, junior enlisted Soldiers shared their own experiences and affirmed their commitment that if they are going to drink, they will not drive.
Despite such serious subject matter, the Soldiers grinned and laughed as they demolished the driving course and watched two of their leaders try their best and fail at tricking the MPs.
Scott commented how training such as this has made a difference across Fort Bragg.
“Ten years ago we had 600 drunks a year. It’s going down,” Scott said. “We’ll never get it to zero, but this sort of training has had an impact in reducing the incidence of drunk driving.”
When asked about the genesis for the “wet-lab” portion of the training, Lt. Col. Patrick McCarthy, commander of 7th MISB, explained that it served a dual purpose.
“This breaks up the monotony,” he said. “We laugh at each other while demonstrating how impaired people can be. This is also about peer leadership.”
Being able to recognize the signs and have the intestinal fortitude to tell a friend, fellow Soldier or leader that they need to give up their keys is something we should all be able and willing to do, McCarthy said.
Soldiers of 7th MISB did have a good laugh at themselves, but ultimately left with a renewed respect for the perils of getting behind the wheel under the influence.
With risks so great, even one drink is one too many, because sometimes, the MPs cautioned, that’s all it takes. And one life lost is one too many.
Units interested in conducting similar training events should contact the Fort Bragg Provost Marshal Office Traffic Division for additional information at 396-0391.