News: Soldier-driven designated driver program sees results
Story by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
FORT RILEY, Kan. - A soldier being arrested for driving under the influence can have devastating consequences for that soldier, but also for their friends, family, and their unit. All the good work of teams and squads of brave, responsible and on point soldiers can be undone with a poor decision made impaired in just one split-second.
“Just like any other company commander I want a work environment where people can focus on work, where they’re not distracted by anything else, be it EO or sexual harassment issues or other after work problems coming into the workplace,” said Capt. Jessie Hart, commander of Company C, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team.
The last time Hart’s medical support company had to deal with the issue of DUIs was more than a year ago – Sept. 10 represents one year that the unit has been DUI-free. A big reason for that, Hart says, is a program introduced just after that last DUI by Spc. Wesley Brown, a medic with the company and a Hurst, Tex., native.
At all times, there are designated drivers on call, along with a designated driver coordinator, whose job it is to recruit drivers and organize dates and times for them to cover. Each driver covers an eight-hour shift, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Their contact information is in the possession of the staff duty desk at all times, and is generally sent out in a text message among the junior Soldiers in the company.
In addition to the designated drivers listed at the staff duty desk, a major part of each safety brief done by the company stresses the importance of planned designated drivers, who forgo drinking alcohol when out with a small group of friends and are in charge of getting everyone home safe.
There are no negative repercussions of any kind for using the service, which Brown says improves the chances the program will be used and Soldiers will get home safely.
“This program the support of the command, but needs to work outside of it,” he said.
“Honestly, it’s a ground-up push, it’s not a top-down push,” he said. “There’s command emphasis on it, but the junior Soldiers came up with the program themselves and it’s kind of like a peer-to-peer program.”
According to Brown, the program works because it is simple and Soldier-driven, whereas some other unit anti-DUI plans fail due to their complexity.
“Our [plan] is you get the call, relay the information, go pick the Soldier up,” he said.
Brown’s program capitalizes on the desire of young Soldiers and sergeants to gain promotion points through awards, and uses the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal as a carrot to attract those Soldiers to serve as designated drivers for the company.
“We have a lot of new Soldiers coming in and a lot of them haven’t deployed, so they want to earn awards to advance their career, including the MOVSM. This is one of the easiest ways to do it and it provides a very tangible result,” said Brown. “Because it’s always talked about — how many hours you have — everyone says they want to be the next one.”
The plan that Brown set in motion has succeeded in eradicating the problem of DUIs in the company, and leaders around the division are taking notice of its success in changing the culture around the issue, with Hart briefing Maj. Gen. Paul Funk II, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, and other senior leaders on the program Sept. 3.
Brown has already drafted policy letters for the plan that could be used at battalion, brigade and division level, and he is bullish that should the plan be utilized properly on such a broad scale the post would see a sharp reduction in DUIs.