Mar 262006

FORT CARSON, Colo. – The number of drunken driving arrests at Fort Carson is higher than Army posts with more soldiers, and three times higher than the city of Colorado Springs.

“I think there’s no doubt that the number of DUIs we have is higher than we want,” Col. Michael Resty, the garrison commander, told The Gazette.

The newspaper reported the average of 40 drunken driving arrests per month from November through March 15 exceeds Fort Bragg, although the North Carolina post has twice as many soldiers. The rate is nearly double the number reported at Fort Lewis, Wash., home to 10,000 more soldiers.

The post’s DUI rate is nine times higher than nearby Air Force bases.

Resty said strict enforcement is one reason for the high rate as well as the fact that the blood alcohol level allowed for soldiers is lower than civilians – .05 compared with .08. The other Army posts impose the same rule, however.

Guards at the post’s gates watch for signs of alcohol and call the military police.

“We do have an enforcement protocol that is pretty tough,” Resty said.

In October the post decided that it would handle punishment for soldiers rather than prosecute them in civilian courts to allow quick action, and it appears to be working.

In February, the post recorded only 18 DUI arrests, said Lt. Col. Chad McRee, the post’s top military police officer.

Soldiers get weekly safety lectures, and every unit has a program that provides transport to soldiers who are drunk, or they can take cabs and the Army will pay.

Commanders said reasons for drinking may include stress from war, excitement over returning home, or celebrating before returning to the Middle East, where drinking is taboo.

“I can’t control the decisions of the individual,” Resty said. “But we can arm them with the tools to make the right decisions. We hope these kids will do the right thing.”

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