WAFB, UCM Collaborate on Community Summit on Underage Drinking
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Oct. 27, 2010) – How do you create a culture of responsible choice when it comes to alcohol consumption? That is a question about 50 individuals from Whiteman Air Force Base, the University of Central Missouri, Johnson County, and the cities of Knob Noster and Warrensburg addressed this week during the Community Summit on Underage Drinking.
The summit took place at the WAFB Royal Oaks Golf Course Monday afternoon, and was hosted by Brig. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm, 509th Bomb Wing commander, and Charles Ambrose, UCM president. These area leaders joined their constituents to strategize about ways to curb underage drinking, particularly among young airmen. Discussion also included the role the university and communities can play in this effort.
Amy Kiger, right, director of UCM’s Office of Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention, discusses alcohol statistics involving airmen at Whiteman Air Force and students at the University of Central Missouri during a recent Community Summit on Underage Drinking at the base’s Royal Oaks Golf Course hosted by UCM President Charles Ambrose, left, and Brig. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing.
Earlier this year, Missouri received $949,617 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to support a three-year joint effort to increase readiness among WAFB personnel through a program designed to reduce the use of alcohol by airmen under age 21. The grant is administered through the Missouri Department of Public Safety. UCM, in cooperation with Warrensburg Area Partners in Prevention, received a sub-grant from the department to coordinate and implement the project.
The grant’s goal is to reduce underage drinking by implementing best practices that increase the enforcement of applicable drinking laws, and enhance research-based prevention and planning programming for underage community members. While the grant is targeted to airmen, the education and enforcement opportunities extend beyond the base.
Vander Hamm said the coordinated effort between the base and other area groups will provide “a broader sense of community” with more people looking out for the best interests of airmen and others dealing with alcohol-related issues. He emphasized the serious nature of the work being done at the base, and the need for military personnel to always be prepared.
“The way I look at this, it is about responsibility. We have a responsibility to a huge mission,” he said, noting the importance of all airmen being ready to do what is required to serve their country.
Ambrose echoed the importance of community involvement in encouraging positive choices about drinking. He noted, “We want to create a heightened sense of value in where we live, where we work, and in the quality of our lifestyles.”
The summit was facilitated by Jeff Huffman, grant program coordinator, and Amy Kiger, director of UCM’s Office of Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention.
“Our vision is to create a community culture of responsible choice, one that supports legal drinking and low-risk strategies when drinking, and discourages illegal drinking and high-risk,” Kiger said.
She stressed that underage drinking is occurring among airmen, college students and high school students, and many of those underage drinkers are consuming at high-risk rates, in other words, five or more drinks in a two-hour period. Kiger cited the 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors among Active Duty Military Personnel showing that heavy drinkers have serious consequences from alcohol at a rate of three to six times higher than any other group of drinkers. The DOD measures consequences such as time away from work due to alcohol use, arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, getting into fights, illness, low performance ratings, and being passed over for promotion.
Huffman said the vision for a “community culture of responsible choice” will be supported through work groups that involve constituents from all areas represented at the summit. These groups will deal with collaboration, sustainability and planning; education and activities; data collection and reporting; and enforcement operations and regulatory improvements.