652-AADD, a safe ride home is only a phone call away

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis Public Affairs

Friday nights in the dormitories here are usually quiet. The ever-present Las Vegas glamour, a compound of all sorts of entertainment from innocent movie nights and diners to numerous clubs and casinos, has spirited away many of those whose finances and schedules allow them a night out. However, there is a group of individuals who turned a deaf ear to the call of TI sirens and ringing slot machines in favor of a more humble task -- saving human lives.

The Airmen Against Drunk Driving program has existed at Nellis for quite a few years, always run by volunteers. Simply put, AADD is a free service for those responsible Airmen whose designated driver plan failed for one reason or another. Every answered call at the AADD is considered a life saved. Last year there were 611 saves. That number has already been exceeded this year.

Over the past few years the program has changed quite a bit. Even location of the office changed several times. Most recently the headquarters permanently moved to the new Airman's Center, where getting bored is simply not an option. An Xbox room, a movie room with a 60-inch plasma TV, a card-playing table and an internet café are there to fill up the time between the phone calls.

Besides a new and fun location, other incentives have been added as well. Free refreshments are available throughout the night. AADD volunteers are now reimbursed for gas at 40 cents a mile and are awarded gift certificates per completion of every 25 hours of service. There has even been talk about nominating those Airmen who put in 150 hours or more for a volunteer service medal.

Airman Hailey, who has been volunteering at the AADD almost every week since February, is one of them. He has over 200 hours of service but getting the medal is the last thing on his mind when he is out saving lives.

"Often we hear of someone getting a DUI, and it's sad, because we could've picked them up and saved them the trouble," said Airman Hailey.

AADD operates every night preceding a day off, usually Fridays and Saturdays, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. The volunteers show up at the Airman's Center, some play video games, some watch movies, others surf the internet. Once the phone calls start coming in, a team of two people is immediately sent out for a save and dispatching continues throughout the night.

"Between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., we usually get no more than five calls. Between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. the phone doesn't stop ringing," said Airman 1st Class Alan Hailey, a sensor operator with the 3rd Special Operations Squadron and the AADD treasurer.

The number of volunteers varies widely - sometimes as few as two or as many as 30 people are working at the same time, averaging out from four to 10 people most nights. If there are more requests than there are drivers, a waiting list is compiled.

"I don't leave until every call is satisfied," said Airman Hailey. Although AADD officially ends at 5 a.m., he said sometimes he finds himself driving hours later.

"It's a great program," said Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Hudson, 57th Equipment Maintenance Squadron and the current vice-president of the AADD. "It reduces DUI's and alcohol related instances."

"It's a way to show your wingmanship to other Airmen," said Airman Hailey. "To those who are out and about when their plans fall through - we are there for them. We'll pick up anyone - with or without a car."

Picking up car-less Airmen is a recent change in the AADD policy. Airman Hailey explained that when Airmen go out drinking without a car, they have already eliminated the temptation of driving under influence. If for some reason they are unable to get a ride back, AADD is just as dedicated to them as it is to those who have cars.

The program is completely confidential and free of charge (donations, however, are accepted and contributed to the AADD fund, from which the gas-reimbursement and gift-certificate money comes from). Once the phone call is made, the AADD volunteers, based on availability, will rush to the caller's location. Upon the pickup, the Airmen are taken home in their own vehicles (emphasis is on "home," not to another bar or party).

"Remember, we are your last resort, not your plan," said Sergeant Hudson.

"Even though it's not a requirement, it'd be great if [those who use AADD] returned a night of service at some point," said Airman Hailey. "You don't even need a car - we always need people to answer calls and ride along and drive other people's vehicles."

Those who wish to sign up for AADD can e-mail Sergeant Hudson, indicating the date they wish to volunteer, or simply show up at the Airman's Center.

"Thank you for your continuous support to AADD. If there's anything we can do to make your experience better, let us know. The program wouldn't be a success without you," concluded Airman Hailey.