Decreasing DUIs - can we do more?

The DUI board at the front gate gives Icemen up-to-date statistics on the installation's efforts to combat DUI's. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz/Released)

The DUI board at the front gate gives Icemen up-to-date statistics on the installation's efforts to combat DUI's. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- When leaving base, slowing crawling along at 15 MPH driving past the guard station, are your eyes pulled to the DUI sign? Mine always are. Every time, it's with anticipation that I wait to see what's on that sign.

The sign passes behind as I accelerate away, but I can't get that sign out of my mind.

It makes me mad when the sign is reset for a new DUI. Why would an Airman drive while under the influence of alcohol? Why didn't a wingman intervene? What now? Best case, no one was hurt, and the legal or administrative process will run its course. Worst case, an arrest for DUI is the least an individual will have to deal with, as lives can be shattered when an accident results in serious injury or death.

Why do we continue to experience DUIs? Am I alone, or does that DUI sign have a profound impact on others too?

As Airmen in the United States Air Force, we should take pride in being members of the profession of arms and in being part of the post powerful air force the world has known. The Air Force values its personnel more than anything else. Each and every one of us plays an integral role; we are the decisive factor in the success of our service, and ultimately, the security of our nation. We are members of the winning team.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. military is the most respected institution in American life. We have earned the trust of our nation's citizens.

So why did our wing experience 14 DUIs last year? Why did 14 Airmen fail to uphold the Air Force Core Values of Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do? Those Airmen put their lives in jeopardy along with the lives of those around them. For one reason or another they failed to do the right thing. They failed to exercise self-control, they failed to do their best, they let themselves down, and they brought discredit to our Air Force.

Could we have stopped these DUIs from occurring? Responsible drinking is continually addressed by leaders and wingmen alike throughout all levels of the Air Force. Obviously, though, we have failed to adequately motivate our Airmen to act appropriately and follow the law.

We've employed external motivation strategies that appeal to fear and reward. Why would Airmen risk a DUI when the potential consequence of impaired driving is their death, the death of family members, or the death of friends? Why would Airmen risk irreparable damage to their Air Force career or future civilian job prospects? But, fear hasn't stopped the DUIs. We've offered the reward of a day off work, a "goal day," as an incentive to keep impaired driving at bay. But, reward hasn't stopped the DUIs either.

What about internal motivation? According to author and motivational speaker Phil Méthot, attitude motivation is much more powerful than the external motivation categories of fear and reward.

Attitude motivation is internally driven, and in essence, reveals that we are compelled to act as we do simply because of who we are. It's time to aggressively tap into this dominant form of inspiration. But just how do we exploit attitude motivation?

It requires one-on-one leadership. It requires us to get to know our personnel, to find out what really makes a person tick. We have to move past observing actions to see who they really are.

Is it that easy? Get to know our personnel, show care and concern, and our DUI rate will go down? No, it's never that easy. But let's give it a try. Let's take the time and energy to engage our Airmen and connect with them. And maybe, just maybe, we can keep our Airmen from putting lives on the line by driving under the influence.