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Your wingman just might save your life

  • Published
  • By Col. Brad Ashley
  • 72nd Air Base Wing vice commander
The telephone rang and broke the silence of the early morning. I reached for it and realized it was 4:32 a.m. 

Being a squadron commander at the time, I had received dozens of late night phone calls. But this one was very, very different. The caller calmly said, "Sir, this is the wing command post and we have a casualty notification." 

I was instantly wide awake and unable to imagine a more distressing message.
By 5 a.m. the casualty notification team was formed and the preliminary facts began to filter in -- an Air Force member had tragically lost her life in an auto accident and alcohol was a contributing factor. 

Thirty minutes later I was on my way to deliver the tragic news to immediate family members. "Sir and Ma'am, on behalf of the Chief or Staff of the Air Force I regret to inform you..." are the hardest words I have ever had to say. 

By 10 a.m., I was at the funeral home identifying the body of a dearly missed Air Force member, a co-worker and a wonderful young person. Her lifeless body was a mere shell of the vibrant young person that just days before smiled at me and said, "Hello sir, how's your day going?" 

The following day, family and friends began to travel to the base. The chapel staff, co-workers, and I did all that we could to help her family deal with all of the difficulties inherent in this type of tragedy, while hopefully continuing to provide some measure of comfort. 

Co-workers and the base population were stunned at the news. Plans were made for a memorial service with our superb chapel staff and top-notch Honor Guard. I can still feel the icy chill of the air rushing over us as the doors flung open for the 21 gun salute. It is a memory that will forever be etched in my mind. I will also never be able to forget the tears in her mother's eyes as I delivered the urn and remains to the family. 

The most tragic aspect of this story is that it could have been avoided. 

This young lady was offered a ride home by two of her squadron wingmen that noticed she had too much to drink. She told them that she was not about to drive in her condition and that she had arrangements for a hotel room nearby. Within a couple of hours and a few more alcoholic beverages, she attempted a long drive home. She never made it -- partly because she did not listen to her wingmen and take their help when offered.
Don't let this happen to you. Don't become a victim. Even if a DUI driver escapes the risk of severe injury and death, DUIs carry extreme financial penalties and are devastating to lives and careers. Thirteen members of Team Tinker have been cited for DUIs this year and that is 13 too many! 

YOU can make a difference. 

THINK -- have a plan BEFORE you drink. 

CALL Airmen Against Drunk Driving (A2D2), a friend, co-worker or boss for a ride home. Believe me when I say I'd much rather visit a bar at night than a morgue the next day.
TRUST your wingmen and lean on them whenever you need help or advice. They might just save your life!