FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Alcohol Awareness Month begins Friday. It is an organized effort to educate the public about the problem of underage drinking and to inform communities about ways they can help prevent underage alcohol use.

For our purposes, we will focus on the challenge of responsible drinking, which we consider to be critical to ensuring alcohol consumption does not adversely affect an individual's ability to fulfill his or her legal, moral or social obligations. Further, it should never impact the Army mission, health, job performance or quality of life.

The warmer weather certainly provides the ideal backdrop for all kinds of outdoor opportunities for barbecues, get-togethers and parties where alcoholic beverages are likely to be served.
My advice to you: Have fun, but always use good judgment. Your personal safety and the safety of others are imperiled with bad decisions. Responsible drinking means that you never have to feel sorry for what has happened while you were drinking.

As you all know, we have the Army ball coming up June 11. I will say in advance that courtesy breathalyzers will be provided to those attending the event to ensure drivers are fit to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. We must think of ways we can monitor ourselves. There are a number of things that we can personally do to help you drink responsibly.

First and foremost, you need to know your limit. Having no more than one drink per hour will assist in keeping you in control. Consider that one 12-ounce bottle of beer/wine cooler, one 5-ounce serving of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits are all considered one drink. There are other things that you should do as well: Eating helps slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system, and you should sip your drink and accept one only when you really want one.

There are other precautions you can take. Key among these are spacing your drinks and drinking a nonalcoholic beverage (between beverages) that contain alcohol, always appointing designated drivers and avoiding alcohol if you are taking medicine.

If you choose to drink then you need to do so in a responsible, safe, sensible and healthy way. And as we all know, drinking and driving do not mix. Here are the sobering facts:

A-A A+- Drunken driving, or driving under the influence, is a serious offense - not only in South Carolina - but in every state.
A-A A+- South Carolina ranks ninth in the U.S. in the percentage of drunken drivers involved in fatal crashes.
A-A A+- Forty percent of repeat DUI offenders pleaded guilty to lesser offenses.
A-A A+- A blood-alcohol content of .08 for South Carolina is considered impaired.
A-A A+- South Carolina also operates under the implied consent law, meaning if you refuse to be tested, your license is automatically suspended for 90 days, or 180 days if this is a second or subsequent offense within the past 10 years.

Another thing to remember is that a drunken-driving conviction can be costly. The fine can range from $400 to more than $6,000. Your license will be suspended for six months, and your insurance rates more than likely will skyrocket.

You will also be required to be counseled for alcohol abuse. And, on top of all the above, there will be administrative and potentially UCMJ-related actions taken against those who drink and drive or otherwise abuse alcohol.

The bottom line is that nothing is worth the risk of getting behind the steering wheel after having had too much to drink. Our leaders across Fort Jackson will continue to stress this important point.
Remember that one alcohol-related death occurs on our nation's roads every 31 minutes, and one alcohol-related injury occurs every two minutes.

We do not want our Soldiers or any members of the Fort Jackson family adding to those statistics. Be smart and be safe, as we need each and every one of you.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!