Friday, September 15, 2006

Another reason I counsel NROTC and OCS: II Electric Boogaloo

Seriously people. Can we talk? Can I be blunt? Sure.....

As I have stated before, there is no way I would recommend Annapolis to anyone who wanted a Commission. Seriously. Not only do you miss out on so much of what college is about (being challenged by radical thought, dealing with more variety of persons, backgrounds, and outlooks of life, etc) you also get better people and social skills. Fact.

That, and you get to be a stupid 20 yr old and not have it haunt you for the rest of your life....unless you have bad luck or really screw up.

Hey, I know I am way off the reservation (shocker) on alcohol, and tend towards the European model. You know what, I am often a designated driver - yet know that if I don't have to get behind the wheel I can have a drink in my hand at 1600 and hit the rack at 0430 at the Admin in Souda Bay - wake up at 0900 to get back to the ship by 1200 and not look like I just got out of chemo. Why.....I grew up knowing how to drink and what my personal limits are. I can also EASILY drink a six-pack+ in less than an hour and stop...because I know my limits, understand alcohol, and know when to stop.

Did I learn this by growing up in a neo-prohibitionist Nanny's house? No. I have lived the life of an adult with free-will and was lucky enough to just make a 18 year drinking age.

It is a tough nut, but the problem isn't drinking (if it was RN and other Navys' ships would be sinking all over the place) but the fact that the forbidden fruit is so attractive and we don't teach how to have a drink like a professional. Sad. All this will do is drive it, and the Midshipmen, underground. I have spent time in countries where the drinking age is 16 (!). Ever walked around Amsterdam on a weekend night? It is better than Charleston, NYC, Atlanta or San Diego.

In Phibian's world, there would be a Midshipman bar, no about three Midshipman bars, on campus. One would open up after the Christmas break for 4th Class MIDN, another one for 3rd Class through 1st Class, and one for 1st Class and Officers only. Guests would be allowed by invitation only, one guest per MIDN and the MIDN must be with them. No drink limit. Professionals look after their Shipmates and treat each other like adults. Drink all you want, but if you make an a55 of yourself, you will pay the consequences. Heck, make it a 6-drink max per day.

Have you been underway on a British or Dutch warship (or the rest of the world)? Don't tell me alcohol is the problem.

Agree or disagree, that is ok. But read the following email from the COS at Annapolis to the USNA Alumni and tell me that is a plan from a mature institution, grounded on reality, and preparing men and women to lead real Sailors in a real world. Harumph. None of them would survive a port visit with the Russians or Germans - that is for sure.
The United States Naval Academy Alumni Association - 120 Years of Service to the Alma Mater and its Alumni


The Naval Academy has recently established clear standards for the responsible use of alcohol in order to best develop midshipmen into responsible officers and leaders for the Navy and Marine Corps. As you know, alcohol abuse is a severe detriment to combat readiness, performance and military discipline. We want our alumni to understand our ongoing efforts to ensure all midshipmen know that they cannot effectively lead if they abuse alcohol.

Today it's common to come across the all too often repeated story of young college-aged students who have engaged in "binge drinking" and subsequently hurt themselves or someone else, or were arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, and as a result, embarrass themselves and their families. Midshipmen are not immune to the fate that befalls those that choose to drink alcohol in a destructive manner. We confront many of the same barriers to the responsible use of alcohol by midshipmen that most colleges and universities face today.

The first barrier is misplaced loyalty to their "drinking buddies" over their loyalty to the Naval Academy, their futures or their careers. (What does that mean? Screw your Shipmates and be a stool-pigeon or you are disloyal to us and we will destroy your future? That is the character of a Stasi agent, not a Navy officer) Second is a fear of confronting unacceptable behavior. Some midshipmen, like many other students their age, want to be perceived as being cool. Confronting their peers on their abuse of alcohol is - for some - inconsistent with this desired image. Sometimes this results in a lack of "positive" peer pressure which could get an off-course midshipman back on track. Third is the misconception that "all" college students drink excessively. Many midshipmen don't want to miss out on many of the experiences believed to be a right of passage for college-aged students. As a result, some midshipmen ignore Naval Academy rules and drink to excess in order to have that true "college" experience. Last is the "I am invulnerable" youth culture where the belief is that bad things only happen to other won't happen to me.

Our policy seeks to discourage alcohol abuse, and encourages both personal accountability and responsibility for the welfare of their peers. Policy highlights follow:

Responsible Use: For those who choose to drink, responsible use means drinking in moderation to ensure one's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) never exceeds .08. We've adopted the memory aid of "0-0-1-3" as a guideline. "0-0-1-3" stands for "0" alcoholic drinks for those under 21, "0" drinks, if driving, a maximum of "1" standard alcoholic drink per hour, and a maximum of "3" standard alcoholic drinks per occasion.

Underage Drinking: Consumption of alcoholic beverages by any midshipman under the age of 21 is a violation of federal and state laws. Offenders face conduct action.

Risky Consumption of Alcohol. Drinking that results in a BAC above .08 and extending to .15. Offenders will be flagged for intervention from their Chain of Command, counseling and education. Subsequent offenses face conduct action.

Abusive Consumption of Alcohol. Drinking that results in a BAC above .15 and extending to .20 is considered abusive consumption of alcohol. Offenders face conduct action.

Intolerable Alcohol Consumption. Excessive drinking resulting in a BAC over .20. Offenders face major conduct action and possible separation from the Naval Academy.

The difference in this policy is that midshipmen will be held accountable for the quantity they drink - not solely for bad conduct under the influence. Our intention is not to play cops and robbers here. We want our midshipmen to discipline their own alcohol use. However, we'll enforce this policy through personal and chain of command accountability, and extensive breathalyzer testing.

Our policy increases chain of command involvement with intervention and possible treatment options to ensure timely and effective treatment is given to those midshipmen that need it. The Naval Academy recently hired an additional SARP (Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program) counselor and instituted Level 1 alcohol abuse treatment on the Yard in an effort to provide needed treatment with as minimal impact as possible on midshipmen studies and training.

The Naval Academy is working hard to combat alcohol abuse. We understand the gravity and pervasiveness of the challenge at our nation's colleges and in our society as a whole. Preparing midshipmen morally, mentally and physically to be combat leaders of character for our Navy and Marine Corps requires holding them to a high standard. As you might expect, the vast majority of our midshipmen meet or exceed our exacting standards on a daily basis, and we will continue to educate, discipline and remediate those who fall short.(I agree, in isolation, with this paragraph)

Eliminating "binge drinking" and alcohol abuse within the Brigade is challenging, and we have elicited the support of our entire faculty and staff in realizing this important goal. For our many alumni who have frequent contact with midshipmen, we ask that you continue to provide a positive example regarding responsible alcohol use during athletic events, tailgaters, and other social activities attended by midshipmen. Your example, positive support and encouragement will greatly assist our efforts to create a climate of professionalism and accountability through the responsible use of alcohol.

r/CAPT Dunn

CAPT Helen F. Dunn, USN
Deputy Superintendent/Chief of Staff
United States Naval Academy

BTW, why would a CAPT put a "r/" at the end of an email to Alumni? Hell, a "Vr/" at least, or something more business like. Geeezzzz..... me? Like those who email me on a regular basis know, I always like to sign off with a ...well...

Hat tip readers RGT, B, and P.

No comments: