An entire Air Force squadron at Ramstein Air Base in Germany is banned from late-night drinking off base because of a trend of “irresponsible alcohol consumption,” according to a new internal memo.
The memo sent to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron was first posted on the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, where airmen share inside information. It was confirmed as authentic to Military.com by officials at the air base.
The subject line of the Sept. 16 memo is “Updated Alcohol Policy” and states “alcohol consumption outside of your dorm or residence is prohibited” between midnight and 6 a.m. local time. It also states that “alcohol consumption is also prohibited within eight hours of any shift.”
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“Irresponsible alcohol consumption is putting the lives of our airmen at risk and we will aggressively address this trend,” the memo reads.
No details were included on how the prohibition will be enforced, especially when drinking happens off base and in the community, and the policy will only be revoked when “the trend is corrected,” according to the memo.
The new rule only applies to airmen in the 721st Aerial Port Squadron, according to Lt. Cameron Silver, a spokesman for the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing. He did not respond with any specifics when asked if any incidents prompted the new policy.
“If a member is caught in violation of this new alcohol policy, they will receive corrective action on a case-by-case basis,” Silver said. “Alcohol related incidents are a threat to our airmen and, in turn, our mission. This policy is meant to deter our members from putting themselves in those situations and promote their safety as well as good order and discipline.”
Strict alcohol bans are rare but not unheard-of in the Air Force, and they’re notably only used for extreme measures.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Eric Benken, who served as the Air Force’s top enlisted leader from 1996 to 1999, told Military.com that it’s a drastic measure to get leadership involved and it’s a balancing act between keeping morale high but also keeping airmen safe.
“There’s personal responsibility associated with this, and there’s also leadership responsibility that’s associated with this,” Benken said. “I kind of feel for the commander in this case. It’s, you know, what are his options if he keeps on allowing these incidents to happen? They’re going to lose their job.”
The 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey temporarily banned its airmen from drinking alcohol in 2019 and the commander provided images of a red sedan that had hopped a curb as evidence of why it was needed.
In 2017, the military temporarily banned all service members in Japan from drinking after a 61-year-old Okinawa man was killed when a Marine collided with his car in what appeared to be an incident involving alcohol.
The 721st Aerial Port Squadron is involved in loading and unloading cargo, equipment and personnel for a wide variety of missions. Katherine Kuzminski, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank who researches military culture and family issues, told Military.com that there’s also diplomatic issues to think of.
Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, Kuzminski said it’s clear that commanders are making sure their units in Europe are ready for whatever could occur. Additionally, if U.S. service members cause problems in local communities in Europe, it could upset host nations.
“There is an active war occurring on the continent, and so I think there’s probably a consideration of not only the behavioral side but also the readiness side,” Kuzminski said. “It’s kind of like a parent saying, ‘If you can’t handle this, then I’m going to take it away from you,’ because we still need to be able to meet our mission.”
— Thomas Novelly can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
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