Devil brigade paratroopers speak out about drunken driving
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, all assigned to companies noted for being free of drunken driving incidents in the fiscal year, said they have many reasons for not drinking and driving. Topping the list for the paratroopers are concerns over the career-ending consequences of a DUI offense and the physical safety of their family and friends. (U.S. Army photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Mary S. Katzenberger)

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- As the end of the fiscal year approaches, four companies in the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team can take stock of their successes in preventing drunken driving offenses within their ranks.

Combat engineer, military intelligence and signal paratroopers assigned to three of the units--Company's A, B and C with 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion--said they have many reasons why they personally choose not to drive under the influence of alcohol. They also said they are committed to making sure their battle buddies make it home safe.

For Spc. Michael A. Lotero, of Canton, Ga., getting a Driving Under the Influence offense is not an option because of the impact it would have on his livelihood.

"I joined the Army to make a career out of this," Lotero said. "I chose to do this with honor and discipline and I wouldn't do anything to mess it up."

The 21-year-old combat engineer said the consequences he'd face would also be felt by his four-year-old son, Jason, and his three-year-old daughter, Madison, as they could lose their healthcare benefits if he was administratively separated from the Army as the result of a drunken driving offense.

Lotero said when he drinks alcohol out on the town he takes taxis or uses a driving service that picks him up and drives his car home for him.

Another popular DUI-prevention method the paratroopers said they use is asking their battle buddies to be designated drivers, or being available by the phone if their friends need a ride.

"Nobody wants to be that … dude getting stripped of rank and pay and getting kicked out [of the Army] when he could have just picked up the phone," said Spc. Jacob A. Clarkson.

While the combat engineer is too young to legally drink alcohol, Clarkson said it's just common sense not to drive drunk because there are so many ways to prevent having to do so. He said his unit has been successful at preventing DUIs because everyone works together as a team to make sure all of the paratroopers make it safely home.

Spc. Whitney L. White and Spc. Ashley M. Camacho, both of legal drinking age, cited their concerns over the safety of their family members as the reason they choose not to drive drunk.

White, a military intelligence paratrooper from Bismarck, Ark., said she wants to be around for her five-month-old daughter, Arabella. She said growing up in a small town she saw many families affected by drunken driving and said she prefers to avoid unnecessary hardships on her family.

Camacho, a signal paratrooper from Brooklyn, N.Y., said she doesn't drink and drive because she thinks of how she would feel if a drunken driver hurt her little brothers, or if she, herself, were to hurt someone while driving under the influence.

"I could never really apologize," Camacho said.

Some of the paratroopers who shared their DUI-free stories said they have experienced a close friend or loved one being killed by a drunken driver.

"He was a really good leader and pretty good NCO, somebody I wanted to be like when I moved up," said Staff Sgt. Bryan J. Powers of a friend who was killed by a drunken driver while the soldier was on rest and recuperation leave from combat.

The 25-year-old military intelligence paratrooper said because of the loss of the friend he attended Advanced Individual Training with, he's dead-set against drunken driving and makes sure the paratroopers he's in charge of know that he will make sure they get home safe, whether he picks them up or has another sober driver pick them up.

Sgt. Adonte J. Emanuel, of Riverdale, Ga., said he also makes sure his soldiers and his battle buddies know they can always count on him for a safe ride home. His DUI-prevention technique is not drinking alcohol in the first place.

Adonte said he is a designated driver for his friends about once every two weeks.

"It alleviates any stress over the weekend just to know they're safe and that I took care of them," the signal paratrooper said. "It's a good feeling."

Page last updated Mon August 19th, 2013 at 16:45