By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (Feb. 02, 2002) -- Zero tolerance is the official policy on driving drunk at Misawa; there are no excuses accepted for those caught driving under the influence. And while this doesn’t mean those who enjoy having a drink should go without, it does mean they should do so responsibly.
Fortunately, the base has a program in place, an extra line of defense, to make sure those who have had too much to drink do not choose to get behind the wheel.
Services and SCREAM Against Drunk Driving, or SSADD, fills that role.
The program is a joint effort between the 35th Services Squadron and the Singles Creating Real Events At Misawa organization.
Airman 1st Class Lisa Stewart, president of SCREAM and originator of the program said SSADD provides rides home to members of the community so they don’t drink and drive.
The SSADD program is a well-organized system where those who feel they would be driving if offered no alternative, can call for a lift in lieu of making the wrong choice, she said.
The program runs weekend evenings to early mornings and employs two shifts of volunteers. The first shift runs from 11 p.m. through 2 a.m., the second shift runs 2 to 5 a.m. Each shift requires three volunteers, one as a dispatcher, one as a driver and one as a "wingman."
Stewart explained, "The driver and the wingman go together in the van as a buddy system to pick up the passenger."
Program coordinators also like to have a standby person for each shift in the event a scheduled volunteer is sick.
Those needing a designated driver during the first shift contact the SSADD dispatcher at 222-9512. They catch a ride from either the club or the front gate, to their home. During the second shift, after 2 a.m., those needing a designated driver are sure to find the SSADD van at the front gate.
‘‘People know what the van looks like, said Stewart. "There is a SSADD logo and a 35th Services Squadron logo on the side of the van, and our people have green windbreakers to distinguish themselves as volunteers."
Takers on the safe ride home would be mistaken to think they’re getting in the car with somebody that puts their noses up at drinkers and partiers. Program volunteers run the gamut of the Misawa community.
"Everybody does the driving. There are officers and enlisted. And a lot of times, people don’t know who is driving so they don’t have to feel intimidated because and the driver is an officer," said Stewart. "We have had people volunteer that used the program before and then say ‘you have given me a ride home a few times and so I want to help out."
Stewart also notes the anonymity of the program.
"We don’t take names," she said, "And we want people to know that this is comfortable and safe."
"Our goal is to get somebody home safe, not to ask questions," said Master Sgt. Steven Beckman, the SSADD program’s enlisted advisor. "This way if my little girl has been out babysitting, and she is on her way home, I know she is safe."
While the SSADD program has provided immeasurable benefit to nearly 1,500 riders since it began in May 2001, the program provides benefits to program volunteers as well.
"Volunteers receive a free meal for their work. They also are allowed free soft drinks, courtesy of the services squadron," said Stewart. "It’s just a couple hours for an enlisted performance report bullet, or really, just to feel good that you did something for the community."
Benefits extend to more than individuals though; the program provides a way for other base organizations to compete in community based activities.
As part of the program, base squadrons provide volunteers to the program. Squadrons with the most number of volunteer hours each month get to claim a traveling plaque for the month, highlights their squadron’s dedication to the SSADD program.
"We had one commander who simply took out a bounty on that plaque," said Beckman. "He told his people he wanted that plaque in his orderly room. And they were going to get it. That is the epitome of team work."
While SSADD isn’t willing to say for sure if they have actually saved any lives with their community efforts, they do believe they have made themselves an option in an important decision.
"I am sure we ye helped people out in making the decision on whether they should drive" said Stewart, "maybe they’ll just catch a ride tonight instead of making that wrong decision, that bad decision they’ll regret for the rest of their career.