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Make smart, responsible choices

By Master Sgt. Christina Hernandez 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

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When I was a child, my grandfather picked me up from school every day and would always ask me the same thing, "What did you learn today?" and no matter what my response
was to his question, it would always trigger the same comeback from him, "Think, think, think!"

It would anger me every day, not clearly understanding what he meant, but that speech helped me become the person I am today ... a first sergeant!

My grandfather's often-recited mantra goes hand in hand with something I have heard commanders say during my career, "Make smart, responsible choices." Those few words can help prevent so many of the issues I see as a first sergeant such as underage drinking, drunken driving and drug use.

How many of us look back at our high school years and remember parties where we drank alcohol?

Unfortunately, underage drinking is an issue that most of us are probably not concerned about, yet not only is it illegal, but also a major public health concern.

Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug by today's youth. Moreover, those who drink underage run a higher risk of having scholastic, social and physical problems, not to mention a higher possibility for suicide and homicide.

Whether you are the underage drinker or you are contributing to a minor, the smart, responsible choice to make is ensuring it does not happen. Underage drinking is not the only concern in regards to alcohol; if you are old enough to drink, you need to be aware of the dangers of getting behind the wheel of a car after you do.

Drunken driving is something we all know is dangerous, yet alcoholrelated vehicle incidents kill or injure thousands of people every year. Not to mention every year there are roughly 900,000 arrests for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated where approximately one third of them are repeat offenders.

Even though 900,000 arrests in a year is a lot, try to imagine how many were never caught. If every one of those people made a smart, responsible choice, they would not have gotten behind the wheel of their vehicle. Alcohol and good decision making do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, but having a plan prior to going out does help alleviate some of the problems. Alcohol is not the only issue that not making smart, responsible choices affects; the use of illegal drugs is another.

Drugs are illegal; there is no other way to say it. If you use drugs, not only are you making a bad choice, you are breaking the law.

Illicit drug use is on the rise in America where most people start out experimenting with marijuana, the gateway drug that leads to other forms of drugs. How many of us have seen the pictures of people addicted to drugs such as the girl next door turned into someone we do not even recognize anymore? All of which could have been avoided if the person just made a smart, responsible choice.

I have only been a first sergeant for about a year, but in that time I have had eight Airmen test positive during a random urinalysis for some type of illegal drug, ranging from marijuana to cocaine.

Eight Airmen who enlisted into the Air Force, made a commitment to do the right thing and obey the law, but instead chose to make a bad decision and do drugs. We subsequently caught them and now they are either no longer in the Air Force or quickly on their way out. Of course, I know civilians do not necessarily have to submit to random drug tests, but they still need to be a valuable member of society. How can they do that if they are high on drugs? This brings me back to what we can do to prevent these types of problems: Make smart, responsible choices.

My grandfather and those commanders may have said it differently, but they both had it right. Whether it is "think, think, think" or "make smart, responsible choices," they knew  exactly what they were saying. If everyone took their words of advice, we would all be better off. Frankly, I would have a lot less derogatory issues to handle and more time for the positive side as first sergeant. So please, when any of the issues I mentioned come up, whether it is underage drinking, drunken driving or using drugs, take a minute to think, think, think and ask yourself, "Am I making a smart, responsible choice?"