Story and photo by Spc. Nathan Thome
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs
Alcohol, if abused, can contribute to the destruction of lives, careers and relationships for men, women and Families, regardless of whether they are military or civilian.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and throughout the month, the Fort Carson Army Substance Abuse Program staff will hold events to inform the community about the dangers of misusing alcohol.
“Our main goal is to raise the awareness, because a lot of negative consequences can come from the overuse and misuse of alcohol, and we don’t want that to happen to anyone,” said Susanne Watts, assistant prevention coordinator, ASAP. “Alcohol abuse and misuse affects a lot of people, and it can seriously affect your life if you don’t use it responsibly.”
As part of the campaign, ASAP has scheduled an open house Thursday at building 6236, from noon to 3 p.m., for brigade command teams to learn about the program and how they help Soldiers.
They have also invited a stand-up comedian to teach Soldiers about alcohol abuse.
“We have comedian Bernie McGrenahan coming to Fort Carson’s McMahon (Auditorium) on April 18 (at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.),” said Watts. “He does a driving under the influence safety prevention comedy skit and then he moves into a personal testimony.
“The goal of this open house and comedian is to get people to start thinking about the choices they make with alcohol; we want people to start seeing that they can have fun, but they don’t have to abuse the substance,” Watts added.
ASAP personnel are available throughout the year to teach prevention and education classes at units, which are tailored to a unit’s needs.
“The alcohol awareness team comes down here and conducts training with our Soldiers quarterly, so they get training throughout the year,” said Capt. Xavier Feldman, commander, 534th Signal Company, 43rd Special Troops Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade. “They teach the Soldiers about the dangers of abusing alcohol and how it can affect their careers and the lives of themselves and the people around them.”
Feldman said he believes Alcohol Awareness Month represents control and shows that Soldiers are responsible adults. He added it also represents a month of caring, because it shows that Soldiers care enough to talk to each other about their issues.
“I believe control is a critical skill for a Soldier; drinking out of control shows lack of skills that a Soldier should have,” said Feldman. “It comes back to discipline, to self-respect, to caring about yourself and those around you. It’s a hard month to focus on, because week in and week out we say don’t drink and drive, don’t get out of control.”
Feldman teaches his Soldiers about the dangers of alcohol abuse through a variety of methods.
“Sometimes we go to the Special Events Center and have Soldiers put on ‘drunk’ goggles to show them what it’s like to drive drunk,” said Feldman. “What we really try to do is bring it home by inviting some of the alcohol awareness people from off post to come in and share their stories about what happened to their loved ones who were affected by those who made poor choices — some of whom were Soldiers — and how it has affected their lives.
“When Soldiers hear it from somebody they don’t know with pictures and a story, and they feel the emotion of what their choices can do to another Family and to themselves; I think it has a greater impact than when they hear it from their leadership,” Feldman added.
Feldman collects preliminary loss reports every week and reads them to the Soldiers to help them realize that if it can happen to other Soldiers, it can happen to them.
“I don’t know if that makes a difference, I don’t know if I’m extraordinarily blessed, but I do feel my Soldiers have been responsible when it comes to drinking,” said Feldman. “So far, for the year and a half I have been in command, not one of my signal Soldiers has had a DUI or any alcohol-related incident.
“I’m not saying that we don’t have alcohol problems, because I have had Soldiers who have voluntarily come to me and say that they may have an issue; so we sent them to ASAP for the help they needed,” Feldman said. “They are Soldiers being responsible, going through the program. They are adult enough to say they have an issue, and then they address it.”
In addition to telling his Soldiers to drink responsibly, Feldman also encourages them to seek help if they believe they have a drinking problem.
“To reduce the stigma about going to ASAP, we don’t give the Soldiers a hard time about receiving help there,” added Feldman. “We tell them that it’s no different than going to physical therapy, because it really isn’t, it’s just emotional therapy. What they’re doing is going through a method of getting over some form of injury.”
When it comes to drinking, Feldman believes his Soldiers know to be responsible drinkers and seek help when they feel they have a problem.
“I’m not saying don’t drink, drinking is a right, just like anything else; just as long as you’re of age, do it responsibly, and have someone who can look out for you,” Feldman added. “In the end, being cognizant of yourself and your limits is important. Having the personal courage to ask for help and go to ASAP if you need to, or just being intelligent on how you drink, is the key to being responsible when it comes to alcohol.”
In addition to the Comedy is the Cure program at McMahon Theatre and ASAP open house, ASAP prevention coordinators will facilitate alcohol awareness briefings throughout the campaign period; Soldiers, Family members and civilians can take alcohol self-awareness assessments at the Fort Carson Army and Air Force Exchange Service April 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and static displays of wrecked vehicles will be outside of Gate 1 and Gate 20 throughout the Alcohol Awareness campaign.
For more information about ASAP, visit http://www.carson.army.mil/dhr/DHR/ASAP/Counseling.html, or to schedule an appointment, call 526-2862.