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2nd Air Force issues breathalyzers for test program

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MISS. -- Second Air Force has begun distributing nearly 25,000 individual breathalyzers to five bases for use during a test focused on alcohol abuse education and awareness.

The program originated at Air Force Safety and was given to 2nd Air Force because of the large number of students who've recently or soon will reach legal drinking age.

The devices are being sent to safety offices at Keesler; Sheppard, Lackland and Goodfellow Air Force Bases, Texas; and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

"The Air Force has two goals it wants to achieve," said Chief Master Sgt. Jimmy Kelly, 2nd Air Force command chief. "One is a decrease in alcohol related incidents. The second is a change in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program referral patterns.

"You're at the bar, you drink three or four beers and another person who hasn't been drinking has you blow into the tester," said Chief Kelly. "You blow a .08 and think, 'Wow, I do this every weekend and didn't realize I was that intoxicated.'

"Now, you become more aware and will hopefully adjust your behavior to reduce risk while improving safety and health."

The chief said that example is only one of several ways the testers could be used.

"We want commanders to use their best judgment on how to use the devices," he explained. "Because each base is different, we didn't want them to have too many rigid guidelines. In fact, each command chief gave input into the overall plan for their unit."

Commanders are given latitude to use what best fits organizational and safety culture requirements, and are encouraged to use their imagination during the trial period.

Units are encouraged to maximize training for the devices at commander's calls and wingman and safety days.

Chief Kelly said safety offices are the focal point for tracking the use of the devices and reporting the data. The tentative plan includes tracking use at the squadron level and reporting the data quarterly to 2nd Air Force at the wing and group levels.

Specific instructions for tracking and reporting are expected to be available in the near future, according to Chief Kelly.

There are two different devices, providing positive or negative results for .04 percent or .08 percent blood alcohol content. Both types are plastic tubes roughly 2.5 inches in length encompassing a small vial filled with yellow crystals.

The directions inside the case direct users to press on the outside tube, breaking the small vial with the crystals inside. They're then directed to blow into the tube for 12 seconds and lay it on a flat surface.

If the yellow crystals turn blue, green or aqua after two minutes the result is positive. If the crystals remain yellow, the result is negative.

The breathalyzers won't be used for law enforcement purposes, as evidence in judicial or non-judicial punishment actions, for other unfavorable actions or as a go-no go gauge to operate a vehicle or perform any other task.