Small mistakes carry big consequences

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Drake McCoy, 700th contracting squadron contracting officer, speaks on the consequences of a DUI he received in 2022, during an interview for a DUI prevention and Reduction campaign at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, May 10, 2024. This campaign aims to inform viewers of the consequences of drinking and driving, and alternative transportation options. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Lazaro)

Wrapped in a scratchy and uncomfortable wool blanket on a worn down mat, I was sitting in a jail cell asking myself where I went wrong. I wondered what led me to even start my car that night and how I was going to recover from this.

On Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, I attended a squadron Christmas party in Altus, Oklahoma, and got a DUI that took away a lot of my benefits as a military member. Since then, I have worked hard to come back from my mistake and do right by the leaders who supported me during a difficult time.

The night started with me and five of my wingmen setting up for the holiday party, which turned into three hours of partying with my squadron. After the event, some friends and I continued the festivities at a local bar near my apartment.

I felt alert enough to drive, so that’s exactly what I did. I drove to my apartment that was less than half a mile away from the bar. The short distance gave me false confidence.

As I was pulling into a parking spot at my apartment complex, I saw police lights flash behind me. I didn’t think they were for me, but I was shocked to see the officer come up to my car and say I was speeding.

The officer said he smelled alcohol and made me complete some sobriety tests, which I thought I aced. In reality, my test performances in combination with a 0.11 blood alcohol level ended with me being put into handcuffs and taken to jail.

While I was in the uncomfortable cell, I had a lot of time to reflect on the decisions that led me here and what might happen next. I thought my upcoming permanent change of station was going to be canceled and I knew my career was going to be severely changed.

After spending the night in a holding cell, my first sergeant picked me up and assured me leadership would support me as best they could.

The week after the DUI, I reported in to see my commander and that’s when I felt the administrative repercussions. I was demoted from senior airman to airman first class, I received a letter of reprimand and given a referral on my enlisted performance report.

These consequences delayed my promotion eligibility by 20 months, stopped me from using tuition assistance toward my education for a year and revoked my base driving privileges for a year. On top of everything, my civilian court and lawyer fees totaled around $5,000.

I think about what I would do if I could go back and do it over again all the time. Such a small mistake carried so many consequences and it all could’ve been avoided.

There were so many options I could have done instead. I had coworkers who would have happily driven me, I could have called a taxi or even walked home. By choosing to drive under the influence, I put others safety at risk and it’s not worth it.

Don’t drink and drive. Call Airman Against Drunk Driving at 0152-5172-3356 on Friday, Saturday and holiday weekends from 2300-0500 to get a free ride.