Monday, February 8, 2016

Balancing Necessary Experience with Safety

(okay, so maybe not this early...)

The other night I had a lovely dinner with a friend as a result of needing to provide a ride but not actually be with a group of teenage girls (mothers of teenagers will totally get this).  Being able to talk about our daughters is important if only to keep them on notice that we compare notes :-).   College is right around the corner for our teens and another subject we compare notes on.  We both share the opinion that not only is the education gained at college important, but also the experience of living away from home and making decisions independently, but with plenty of support and Mom and Dad's help to fall back on.

What was interesting to me was my friend's wish that college kids could still drink beer legally.  It was so refreshing in this age of heli-parenting :-).  Learning how to deal with alcohol and it's effects on you is both a right of passage and a necessary data point for how to handle yourself out in the real world. This was my experience at college.  I once tripped on a curb and scraped up my lip in a way that no makeup could hide.  That sure taught me a lesson.  

I have a similar opinion about drinking and young airmen.  In the stone age, when I was a brand new lieutenant, Fridays after work meant going to the Club and drinking.  But more senior leadership (those old, old Majors and Lieutenant Colonels) were there too. When someone got out of hand, either their buddies or the old guys would intervene.  It would be chalked up to rowdiness, used by your buddies to mercilessly embarrass you or could result in a more stern talking to on Monday morning.  At my first assignment, at some kind of party at the Enlisted Club a couple of my airmen got out of hand, and my senior NCOs made corrections on the spot. It didn't hurt that all involved were mortified that it happened in front of the boss.  That taught them a good lesson.

In our effort to correct much bigger, awfuller problems - driving while intoxicated, binge drinking and sexual assaults - we have restricted a contributor but not the cause. Please don't think that I don't consider these to be serious issues.  But the result is that we've taken away a way to gain experience and maturity.

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