Truman Hosts Safety Event, Urges Sailors to Act Responsibly

Story Number: NNS070318-07Release Date: 3/18/2007 11:14:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Heather Weaver, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) teamed up with Recording Artists, Athletes and Actors Against Drunk Driving (RADD) March 16 in an effort to encourage Sailors to make smart decisions regarding alcohol use.

Truman was RADD's first full-scale military event and chosen based on the publicity her DUI program received. Dan Steber, a media officer at the Naval Safety Center, said he anticipates Truman's event to be the first of many. He said the hope is to make the program fleet-wide and eventually Defense Department wide.

"We know drinking and driving in particular, and traffic mishaps in general, are critical to prevent because we don't want to lose our most valuable resources - our Sailors," Steber said. "A program like this will raise awareness and make people think a little bit before they make that one mistake that could take their life and cause their family grief that no family wants to face."

Steber said Sailors filled out surveys during the event aimed toward helping the Safety Center gauge the benefits and effectiveness of the program. He said the center will take those results and present them to the Navy Executive Safety Board.

Erin Meluso, RADD President, said the event serves to encourage Sailors to have safety awareness. She said the hope is that at least one aspect of the show touches people in some way.

"We'd like to change some of the culture of the military," Meluso said. "We're focusing on the culture of overindulgence of alcohol as well as helping Sailors understand the consequences of their actions. Our hope is that the program will grab people. Somewhere throughout all of these pieces, when you go out on Friday night we want [someone] to say -- 'well maybe I'll call a cab.'"

"I'm a retired Navy senior chief; I live and breathe these folks -- Sailors -- each and every day," Steber said. "This program and safety are important to me because I've walked in your shoes. I know what you go through day-to-day and it's important to me to try to save as many lives as possible. That's what the Navy safety center is about. That's what my mission is and if this presentation today saves one life then we've done our duty."

Rear Adm. William Gortney, Commander Carrier Strike 10 (CSG 10), kicked off the event by reminding Sailors about the consequences they would face should they choose to drink and drive.

"We're at war and we're losing more service members to personal motor vehicle accidents than in combat deaths," Gortney said. "If you're dead you're not doing anything for the defense of your country."

He said worse than ruining their career, Sailors might kill themselves or have to face the reality of killing other people because of one stupid decision.

"The real reason I don't want you drinking and driving is because I don't want you on the road with my family when they're on the road," Gortney said. "I don't want you killing my family."

The event featured the HBO documentary, SMASHED, Toxic Tales of Teens and Alcohol. The documentary chronicled the treatment and recovery of several teens involved in alcohol-related incidents.

Machinist Mate Third Class Mike Petruska, a Reactor petty officer and event attendee, said the show inspired him because it wasn't about lecturing, it was about teaching. He said hearing the message in a different way really brought it home.

"I like that it wasn't just about not drinking and driving because we hear that so much," Petruska said. "I liked how it was also about being a better person and living up to your potential."

Machinists Mate Third Class Brian Sherwood, also a Reactor petty officer agreed. He said the different aspects the show used to get the point across were powerful.

"When they had the movie on and then the guy on the movie actually showed up and talked about his experience it really proved the point and made it hit home," Sherwood said. "I feel like I learned and benefited a lot from this."

Warren McKeldin, one of the teens featured in the documentary, offered a personal testimonial for the crew.

"This could happen to you," Warren said. "Nobody's exempt. It has nothing to do with race, class or anything else. Make good decisions, be responsible. I'm not trying to tell people not to drink, I'm just asking that people be smart about it."

Agreeing with Warren, McKledin added, "You don't realize how much that one bad decision affects someone else -- affects other people. It's a domino effect,"

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