CHEYENNE – Wyoming Army National Guard leaders drove drunk Sunday during drill. And they did it with the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Sgt. Duane Ellis, Sgt. Momen Elazizi, and Lt. Kyle Mckay from the Wyoming Highway Patrol met with senior leadership from the Wyoming Army National Guard March 10, to discuss and demonstrate the consequences of driving under the influence and drug usage as it relates to the growing trend of military personnel usage.
“What you saw today, us sitting down with the Wyoming Highway Patrol, is our first step in trying to say, ‘What can we do better as an organization to try and educate our force about the dangers of DUI?’” said Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, Wyoming’s adjutant general. “It’s a growing issue for us and it’s one that’s not healthy, in your personal life and certainly not for our military force.”
He and other senior leaders emphasized their commitment to take an aggressive approach to combating the growing issue of alcohol and drug usage and are continue to educate soldiers on the seriousness of this matter.
Following the patrol’s presentation, Army Guard leaders were provided Simulation Impairment Goggles that mimic the symptoms of being under the influence of alcohol. While wearing the goggles, patrol officers administered two of the three Standardized Field Sobriety tests; the “Walk and Turn” and the “One Leg Stand.” Participants had the opportunity to see first-hand how alcohol affects their ability to complete seemingly simple tasks.
“The simulation goggles really helped me understand the full affects that too much alcohol can have on your abilities just to normally function,” said Brig. Gen. Brian Nesvik, commander of the Wyoming Army National Guard. “I felt completely inoperable when asked to perform simple tasks while wearing the goggles.”
Col. Kent Porter, 115th Field Artillery Brigade commander, also participated in the demonstration. “No pun intended, but it was an eye opener to see the world at that level of impairment,” he said.
“The goggles I wore stimulated someone nearly three times over the legal limit. I was unable to simply put one foot in front of the other without losing my balance. I am sure the other tests would have resulted in a similar failing result,” he said. “You hear about people operating a vehicle in this condition, why they do it beyond my imagination. When you can’t walk a straight line, there is no way to operate a vehicle safely.”
Wyoming is seeing an increase in drug related DUI crashes and arrests, said Ellis, the highway patrol’s safety education officer. Drugs are currently involved in 23.62 percent of arrests across the state, proving there is a growing need for enhanced safety and prevention measures.
“With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, we saw a rise in the number of possession charges and DUI arrests. People don’t realize that a Wyoming resident can legally go down and purchase marijuana but once they’re in Wyoming, it’s illegal again,” he said.
According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, per capita, Cheyenne is the city with the highest DUI citation rate in the United States and roughly 35 percent of vehicle fatalities are alcohol or drug related.