Home' Army News : March 4th 2010 Contents 2 NEWS
Army March 4, 2010
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The Soldiers' Newspaper
Face of Army
Valley duty: LCpl Aaron Kime in
Afghanistan's Mirabad Valley region
during his service with MRTF 2.
Photo by Sgt Mick Davis
By Capt Douglas McGuire
SGT 'Dave' finally realised he
had a problem after a drunken
dining-in night where he picked
a fight with his adjutant, abused
his CO and RSM, and stag-
gered home to subject his wife to
another night of fear and despair.
It was an alcohol-fuelled
evening that would see the then 32-
year-old seek help after 13 years of
heavy drinking, which he believes
would have eventually cost him his
career -- and probably his life.
At first it was only a desire to
avoid looming disciplinary action
that forced him to ask for support,
after years of drunk driving, vio-
lence and lies caught up with him.
Now a warrant officer -- and
sober for more than nine years
-- Dave said soldiers were at risk
from peer pressure and a macho
culture across society that viewed
heavy drinking as a normal part
"Years ago, when I finished the
first month at Kapooka, we were
taken out to 'celebrate' at a platoon
function in a pub," he said.
"The whole aim was to get
totally blind. Corporals were forc-
ing jugs of beer down our faces
-- they thought that the best way to
reward us was by getting us drunk.
"I saw the same thing going on
22 years later -- in an Army boozer
just the other week. It was a dig-
ger's 18th birthday and his mates
were getting him smashed."
WO2 Dave said that although
formally condoned, institutional-
ised heavy drinking was to some
extent a thing of the past, more
needed to be done to help soldiers
with a drinking problem.
"I managed to cover up my
problem drinking for years in an
environment where such behaviour
was actually expected," he said.
"I went to work drunk, but I hid
it well. I would turn up for PT blot-
to after drinking until 6am. In fact,
you were a legend if you could turn
up drunk and still do PT."
He said he was promoted to
sergeant despite his drinking and,
while his mates would laugh at his
behaviour when he was drunk, he
lost his wife twice and eventually
started to attract attention from
senior people in the regiment.
"As far as I was concerned I
didn't have a problem, so I pushed
them all away and denied that I
really needed help."
The night Dave had his last
drink he behaved so badly he
couldn't avoid punishment.
"It was a dining-in night, and
I was so drunk that I was abusing
officers, abusing civilians and even
"Then I went home, abused my
WHILE general perceptions are
that consuming alcohol makes us
feel good, it is indisputable that
excessive and prolonged con-
sumption can cause or contribute
to life-threatening health problems.
Excessive or binge drinking
on a single occasion can also be
life-threatening as the consumer's
control of his or her physical and
mental capacities are reduced.
Alcohol is a central-nerv-
ous-system depressant and, as
such, its effects progress through
pleasant feelings of relaxation
and diminished inhibitions through
increasing loss of balance to nau-
sea and vomiting and, potentially,
to unconsciousness, breathing dif-
ficulties or even death.
Alcohol's effects on the human
body vary from person to person
and are influenced by the consum-
er's sex, body size, age, experi-
ence of drinking, genetics, nutrition
However, it is generally recom-
mended that drinking more than
two standard drinks every day can
increase an individual's risk of
alcohol-related disease in the long
term -- and drinking more than four
standard drinks on a single occa-
sion dramatically increases the risk
of alcohol-related injury.
There are many sources of
information with regards to the
safe consumption of alcohol and
support mechanisms designed to
assist problem drinkers.
Visit the Joint Health Command
web site on the intranet at http://
sites/DMHSF to seek information
or help. The National Health and
Medical Research Council's web
site is also an excellent source of
information on the health issues
associated with alcohol consump-
tion -- www.nhmrc.gov.au.
'I would have ended
up dead in the gutter'
wife, got some more booze and
drove off and drank until I passed
out. When I eventually got into bed,
I tried to put my arms around my
wife, but she said 'I hate you' and
told me to leave in the morning."
A call from a mate the next
day revealed how much trouble he
was in. Initially to avoid getting
charged, he sought help from the
base medical officer who referred
him to a psychologist.
He was sent to AREP
-- the Alcohol Rehabilitation and
Education Program -- which he
credits with saving his life and
career and helping him to become a
more effective member of the ADF.
"I was going to lose everything
-- my wife, my job and probably my
life. I would have ended up dead in
a gutter somewhere."
Dave was at AREP for six
weeks but spent the first few weeks
denying he needed to be there. "I
thought senior NCOs, WOs and
officers don't have drinking prob-
lems," he said. "But the fact is,
alcohol does not discriminate. It
affects everyone if you abuse it, no
matter who you are."
A text message from a member
of his platoon saying 'I miss you'
proved to be the turning point.
"I dropped the phone, collapsed
and cried. That was rock bottom."
He said his wife backed him
through his recovery and the people
at AREP were fantastic.
"They educated me about who
and what I am. I was going to lose
everything, but I got it all back."
WO2 Dave has a simple mes-
sage for soldiers who drink heavily.
"Don't look at the differences
between my story and yours -- look
at the similarities.
"If you can identify with any-
thing I have said, you might have
a problem -- and there is nothing
wrong with asking for help.
"It will be hard, but it might
save your career or even your life."
WO2 Dave would like to see
more structured support for sol-
diers who complete the AREP pro-
gram, similar to systems in place
in the RAAF and RAN, and more
training for senior NCOs to help
soldiers who need it.
WO2 Dave started his warrant
officer's course exactly seven years
after he had his last drink and his
career is now back on track.
Editorial -- Page 21
Heavy drinkers risk health
WO2 tells what would have happened if he did not stop drinking
Ease up: More than two standard drinks a day increase the risks of alcohol-related disease.
Photo by Sgt Andrew Hetherington
DEFENCE officials say media
reports that ADF personnel
had been banned from storing
semen before deployment were
Commander Joint Health
Maj-Gen Paul Alexander said
ADF policy, introduced in March
2003, did provide for assisted
reproductive services (ARS) to
support families where there was
an underlying medical reason for
"This policy states that stand-
ard medical services for the
baseline investigation of infertil-
ity will be provided to members
at the ADF's expense," Maj-Gen
"With regard to specific ARS,
those services associated with
treatment covered by Medicare
will be provided to the ADF
member at the ADF's expense.
This could include anaesthetic
fees, hospital expenses, gynae-
cologist fees -- and semen storage
where clinically warranted.
"Defence will cover both the
Medicare fee and the gap for the
specific ARS authorised by Joint
He said Defence would not,
however, fund items not covered
In relation to storage of semen
before operations, Australian
Defence policy is the same as US
and Canadian policy, which does
not cover such procedures and
storage at public expense.
"But, obviously, any mem-
ber who wishes to store semen
at their own expense before a
deployment is free to do so,"
Maj-Gen Alexander said.
No ban on reproductive option
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