News: Save A Life Tour brings DWI awareness
Story by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Foss
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - The Fort Drum Army Substance Abuse Program hosted the Save A Life Tour on the installation, April 2-4, to educate soldiers on the severity of drinking and driving, giving them a firsthand simulated experience of being intoxicated behind the wheel without them having to deal with real-life consequences.
The Save A Life Tour isn't just a simulator; it's an experience. Hard-hitting and emotion-provoking videos play on huge monitors, large banners express strong messages, a casket set up near the entrance grabs people's attention and on-site instructors wrap it all up with strong personal testimonies to create an eye-opening experience.
"When I was in college, I had multiple friends from high school pass away from drinking and driving," said Andrew Tipton, Save A Life Tour manager. "I went to school to be a counselor, and losing those friends played a big influence in my life."
Another instructor on-site spoke about his experience of getting hit by a drunk driver as a child, leaving him with permanent injuries and causing him to have to relearn how to walk and talk.
"The instructor's stories made a strong impact. He had the experience of being hit by a drunk driver, and it really makes you think," said Sgt. John Kesel, B Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. "In the Army, we are supposed to be professionals. It's not professional to get behind the wheel and cause injuries like that to innocent civilians."
The multimillion-dollar simulators used in this program were created to provide the most realistic intoxicated driving experience possible for people to realize just how difficult and dangerous it is to drive drunk.
The instructor's goal isn't to scare soldiers away from drinking; it's to scare soldiers away from drinking and driving.
"Our goal is to save lives. We work to get the message out that of-age drinking is fine, but doing it responsibly is what saves lives," Tipton said. "While soldiers are out there saving our lives and our freedom, we are here to tell our story and educate soldiers to try and save their lives."
Soldiers in today's Army are expected to act as professionals at all times, on and off duty. Taking the keys from an intoxicated battle-buddy and possibly saving his or her life is just as important as saving a life on the battlefield.
"When it comes down to it, it gives you the tools and awareness to stop and think when that critical decision is right in your face. I've watched buddies die in front of me because of bad decisions that were made concerning drinking and driving," said Sgt. Robert Neal, B Troop, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment.
Programs like Army Substance Abuse Program provide educational training like this to equip 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldiers with the tools and awareness to survive even when they are not in a combat environment.
"Today we are letting our soldiers go through simulators and watch videos on accidents caused by [driving while intoxicated]," said 1st Sgt. Timothy Phillips, B Company, 1-87 Infantry. "Soldiers don't always realize the situation they are in until it's too late. The more awareness and knowledge they have before they are put into bad situations, the more likely they are to make the correct decision."
Making the correct decision when faced with the choice to drink and drive is what ASAP is focusing on.
"I hope this makes an impact on soldiers that we were able to bring this to and that they will think before getting in a car after drinking. We are very focused on reducing the [number of driving while intoxicated incidents]," said Cheryl Wehner, Suicide Prevention Program manager with the Fort Drum ASAP.
With the realism displayed throughout the Save A Life Tour presentation, it's safe to say that no soldier left unaffected.