Are you drinking responsibly?

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- I drink alcohol. I don't need it to enjoy myself, but on the occasion when I want to drink an alcoholic beverage, I do so without any shame attached.

But Air Force policy on responsible drinking behavior is never far from me.

From 1995 until 2010, I served our Air Force and its Airmen as a first sergeant, so it should be easy for me to remember the exact Air Force Instruction that covers responsible drinking. I should be able to recite official Air Force policy and Air Force definitions on responsible drinking almost word for word. Though I may not have photographic memory of the policy, the gist of it still resonates within me.

What is the Air Force's policy regarding responsible alcohol consumption? Most Airmen I ask that question respond, "Don't drink and drive" or begin to explain the 0-0-1-3 program to me. They would not be incorrect. However, the practical application of this policy is a little more detailed.

If you're of the legal age to drink alcohol, it is the results of your drinking behavior that define responsible versus irresponsible alcohol consumption. If your alcohol consumption damages you, damages another or damages the credibility or prestige of our Air Force -- then you're drinking irresponsibly. Even if your drinking only increases the likelihood of any of those three things happening, you're in violation.

Does it damage you? Airmen who drink to excess and injure themselves as a result and Airmen who drink so much that they are unable to meet their financial obligations are examples of Airmen who are not drinking responsibly.

Does it damage another? Drinking cannot be used to justify behavior such as acting abusively toward family members, acting disrespecting towards lawful authority or engaging in discriminatory behavior.

Does it damage our Air Force? Those that create public disturbances, report for duty while still under the influence of an intoxicating substance or likewise act in a way not befitting a member of the world's dominant aerospace power are guilty of irresponsible drinking behavior.

The Critical Days of Summer are upon us. The Air Force campaign to focus on safety and minimize accidents typically begins Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day weekend. With respect to the increased attention the Critical Days deserves -- responsible drinking is not a 101-day issue. I make a 365-day promise to Airmen that I will not drink in a manner that damages myself, damages you or embarrasses our wing, base or Air Force. I ask you to make that same promise to me and to each other.

If we drink alcohol -- we will do so responsibly.