By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsJanuary 26, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 26, 2018) -- "If you're going to drink, don't drive; and if you're going to drive, don't drink."
These words have been spoken countless times at safety briefings across the Army to advise Soldiers before the weekends and holidays. That, and "have a plan," are key phrases that leaders will drill into their troops to ensure they return to formation ready to perform their duties.
The Drunk Driving Prevention Program is helping Fort Drum Soldiers adhere to those safety standards by offering a free designated driver service. Volunteer drivers provide rides every Friday and Saturday, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. for service members on post, within a 30-mile distance from Fort Drum.
Participants must sign up online at www.ddpp.us before requesting a ride, and those who wish to volunteer with the program can also register there. All hours are documented as community service credit and apply toward the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Volunteers can select which day they want to volunteer.
Staff Sgt. Robert Matz, assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, said that there are roughly 150 volunteers with the Fort Drum chapter of DDPP, and it is a number that fluctuates depending on field training exercises and deployments. On any given weekend, they will have about 14 to 18 volunteers on call to support Fort Drum service members. Volunteers work in teams of two in case a person's vehicle also needs to be driven.
"That's great because it allows us to push 7 or 8 teams out," Matz said. "People usually go out in a group, so if we send out five teams that means we're bringing 15 Soldiers back home safely."
Matz has other volunteer experience as a youth sports coach and he has also participated in Habitat for Humanity projects.
"But I have to say that being part of the Drunk Driving Prevention Program really gives you a broader outlook on reaching out to the community," he said. "This has a positive effect not only among the Soldiers in our community, but outside Fort Drum as well. When you think about it, this program affects everyone whether they know it or not because we are doing something to keep people safe."
Spc. Manuel Wade, chapter vice president, said that he was looking for volunteer hours when he joined the chapter about 18 months ago.
"Once you start driving for DDPP, you become proud of that," Wade said. "I noticed a lot of volunteers will tell you that they got their friends involved as well because there's a sense of pride in volunteering for with this program."
The more he got involved with the chapter, Wade began to see the bigger picture about what DDPP
"At this point, I would say it has become more than just trying to get volunteer hours. This is about helping out Soldiers and helping the mission readiness of the 10th Mountain Division," Wade said. "A person getting a DUI -- that's funds lost and training lost and a potential Soldier not able to contribute to our fighting capability. Number one, we want to make sure that Soldiers don't get hurt."
Wade, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said that he is committed to growing the DDPP chapter at Fort Drum and he advocates for it so much he is basically known as "the DDPP guy" at his unit.
"My personal long term goal is to make sure this chapter is self-sustaining to the point where, when
we leave, others can step up and keep the program going," Wade said.
It wasn't too long ago when the program was struggling on post, and Matz made it his mission to revive the Fort Drum chapter.
"I took over the program when it was about to be shut down because it wasn't being utilized," he said. "You need to have chapter officers and, at the very least, three volunteers on call -- one dispatcher and two drivers." We didn't have that."
For a couple of months, it was only Matz and one other volunteer providing the service and dispatches were sent from the DDPP national headquarters based in Hawaii because there was no one to receive them at Fort Drum. Within six months of assuming the role of chapter president in the summer of 2015, Matz was able to recruit more than 100 volunteers.
Matz estimated that they provided rides to roughly 800 people last year and drove about 200 privately owned vehicles back to their homes.
"I have to point out that Sgt. Matz saved the program," Wade said. "If not for him, it probably would have closed down when I got there. Seeing what he did, I decided I could step up a little bit and help out here and there."
While Matz was deployed to Europe last year, Wade said that he tried to serve in an advisory capacity for the chapter officers who weren't familiar with how the program worked. Before Wade departed for training, he managed to recruit Sgt. James Standlee, also with the 2-14th Infantry.
"When I first came to the unit after going to ALC (Army Logistics College at Fort Lee, Va.), he asked me how busy my weekends were and if I was interested in some volunteer hours," Standlee said. "So I was driving on weekends, and then I began dispatching while Spc. Wade went to the Pre-Ranger Course."
Standlee became acting president late last year while Matz was on deployment in Europe. With Matz preparing for a change in duty stations this summer, Standlee has fully assumed the duties as president.
As much as they are trying to get Soldiers interested in using the program, Standlee said they are also encouraging others to sign up as volunteers.
"Not everyone likes to drink or go out every weekend," Standlee said. "You can be in the barracks, play your Xbox and gain volunteer hours at the same time."
Standlee said volunteers can submit their application online and then attend a safety brief, which is available at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at the Post Exchange.
Volunteers can submit an application at www.ddpp.us. Those interested in using the service must also sign up at the website. To learn more about the Fort Drum chapter, visit https://www.facebook.com/NNYDDPP/.
The Fort Drum DDPP chapter is also hosting a volunteer meeting at 1 p.m., Jan. 27 at the Main Post Exchange food court. Those who have questions, can call (315) 775-8813 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The bottom line is we are trying to make sure that our Soldiers are protected," Standlee said. "If you want to go out and have a great time, have a plan. If that plan fails, give us a call."