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Surprise DWI checkpoint catches motorists off guard

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Fourth Fighter Wing leadership is making it known that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be tolerated on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. 

Law enforcement officials from the 4th Security Forces Squadron, Goldsboro Police Department and the SecTek security company shared resources during a driving-while-impaired checkpoint at the Berkeley Gate during the early morning hours of February 24. 

The inspection, known as Operation Zero Tolerance, was an unannounced special-enforcement inspection intended to evaluate the security of the installation and the military fitness and discipline of base personnel. Furthermore, the inspection measured the standards of readiness maintained by the Airmen of Seymour Johnson. 

"DWI checkpoints maximize the deterrent effect and increase the perception that an Airman who gets behind the wheel after consuming alcohol risks apprehension," said Capt. Sherri Ohr, a lawyer from the wing's judge advocate office who was at the checkpoint to provide on-scene legal advice. "If the prospect of getting stopped at a DWI checkpoint makes an Airman think twice about driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol, the wing has done it's job." 

Of the more than 100 vehicles that were stopped at the checkpoint, three people failed field sobriety tests, indicating they were driving while intoxicated. 

One of the sobriety-test failures went to a noncommissioned officer stationed here. While driving toward the gate, the NCO suddenly made a u-turn, crossing over the grass median into the outbound traffic lane. He was chased down and stopped by law enforcement personnel before failing his field sobriety test. 

The consequences of driving while intoxicated can be severe for military personnel. 

"Those Airmen who act irresponsibly and drive while under the influence of alcohol risk not only apprehension but also consequences that follow, such as punishment under the uniform code of military justice and penalties in the civilian court system, which obviously jeopardizes an Air Force career," said Captain Ohr. 

The consequences of this conduct also extend beyond the individual. It can jeopardize the safety of people who visit, work on or live on the installation. Driving-under-the-influence convictions can also have a significant impact on readiness. 

"Drunk driving has a large negative result on military readiness. For every member who gets a DWI or DUI, you've not only taken one member out of the fight but as many as three or four," said Staff Sgt. David Leebert, a security forces Airmen who participated in the checkpoint. "The member who can't drive now has to get a ride from someone everyday, everywhere he or she goes. Another has to pick up the slack in the AEF (air and space expeditionary force) cycle for that person who can't deploy now, another one or two other members must cover for the work they can no longer perform." 

As long as members of Team Seymour continue to drive under the influence, unannounced checkpoints will be used as a tool to enforce the 4th FW's zero tolerance policy for drunk driving. 

"No one other than higher leadership and select base agencies are privy to the date of the next DUI Checkpoint," said Sergeant Leebert. "Meaning that the base populace, to include civilians, will always have to second guess when they go out for a drink, and ask themselves, 'Will there be a checkpoint tonight?'"
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