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Are you willing to cross the line - is it worth the risk?

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- It's an awesome point in one's life when a young man or woman chooses to take a bold step of faith, raises their right hand and swears to defend our great country against all enemies foreign and domestic. From that point on, whether enlisted or officer, one sets off on a difficult path that requires much dedication, hard work and fortitude in order to succeed. Although this article is focused on those Airmen who have just begun their Air Force journey, it is equally applicable to those of us who have been around the Air Force-block a few times. 

With that said, I challenge each of you to recall the day that you decided to pursue serving your country in the United States Air Force and the proud feeling you (and your loved ones) had when you graduated from enlisted basic training or your commissioning source. 

Once a graduate, you began initial training to become a viable and useful Airman in our Air Force. By the time you reached your first duty station, you overcame many challenging obstacles such as the mental and physical stress associated with your basic and technical training, the hundreds of hours of academic study and the difficult logistics of reporting on time. 

As you settled in to your new unit, you began some form of upgrade training or familiarization associated with your new Air Force specialty. 

To this point, you have invested a great deal of time and energy to reach one of your initial goals -- to become a member of the best Air Force in the world. Never forget the United States taxpayers have invested in your success as well and are counting on you for the defense of our Nation. 

Now to the focus of this article: "are you willing to cross the line -- is it worth the risk?" As an Airman who is privileged to be a squadron commander, I routinely touch on this subject with the proud professionals in my squadron. When it comes to the specific subjects of underage drinking, drinking and driving or drug use as a member of our Air Force, one should consider the risk and consequences associated with these poor choices. 

Although there are many other poor choices one can make, these three are amongst the most dominant in our Air Force. 

The risks and consequences associated with making any of these poor choices vary on several different factors, but all of them come at a high price impact to your Air Force career and to you personally. Taking into account the sacrifice one makes to become a valued member of our great Air Force, it seems hard to believe anyone would be willing to drink underage, drink and drive or use drugs and "cross the line", but some do. 

Below is a laundry (though this is not an all-inclusive) of risk and consequences associated with these poor choices that need to be considered.
1. The danger of injuring or killing yourself or someone else.
2. The accountability and appropriate disciplinary action that will come when you get caught.
3. The possibility of being incarcerated.
4. The financial impact to you, and your loved ones, if you lose rank or have to forfeit pay.
5. The loss of on-base driving privileges.
6. The enormous amount of time that is consumed by the legal experts, commanders, first sergeants, and supervisors dealing with a member who makes one of these poor choices.
7. The shift of workload to others in the work center due the member's required absence while going through the accountability process.
8. The inherent embarrassment associated with going through the accountability process.
9. The potential risk of throwing away all the work and energy you've investing in the attempt to reach your goal to become a valued member of the best Air Force in the world.
Taking all of those thoughts into account, one has to wonder why any Airman would ever "cross the line" and be willing to risk so much by making one of these poor choices.
I'd like to conclude my comments by emphasizing that the large majority of our Air Force members never get caught up in the entangling net of making one of these poor choices.
They are hard working professionals who understand the risks and consequences and choose not to cross the line. For those who have been ensnared, we, as good wingmen, will always assist you to recovery, but there comes a time when the liability becomes too great for good order and discipline and successful mission accomplishment.
Our Air Force needs those who are willing to hold the line, not cross it.