JBER-Richardson Bans Alcohol in Barracks

Photo from the Arctic Thunder Open House on JBER, Saturday, July 28, 2012. (U.S. Air Force/Justin Connaher)
Photo from the Arctic Thunder Open House on JBER, Saturday, July 28, 2012. (U.S. Air Force/Justin Connaher)

Army officials are admitting that they have an alcohol and drug problem at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage. And they’re doing something about it: banning alcohol in the barracks.

Commanders have agreed to implement policies to curb alcohol-related disciplinary problems on base and in Anchorage, according to Lieutenant Colonel Bill Coppernoll, a spokesman for the U.S. Army in Alaska. He says the new policies will be aimed at improving discipline and standards and include an alcohol ban.

“The policy hasn’t been written yet, but we do anticipate restricting alcohol in the barracks, on post,” Coppernoll said.

Soldiers over 21 will still be permitted to drink alcohol at the one club on the JBER-Richardson side of the base, Coppernoll says, as well as to drink off post. There is already a ban on alcohol in barracks on the Air Force side of the base, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force in Alaska says. Coppernoll says the ban on alcohol in army barracks is part of a larger strategy.

“It’s not one single policy it’s really a number of different initiatives that are aimed at reducing the number of disciplinary issues and alcohol related-instances across U.S. Army Alaska,” Coppernoll said.

Coppernall says the U.S. Army in Alaska is also considering routine checks by officers on-base as well as increasing courtesy patrols in downtown Anchorage to make sure soldiers are staying out of trouble. He says service members are already provided with a phone number to call for a ride if they go out and drink too much. Officials are also reviewing existing policies concerning guns.

“Disciplinary issues that involve weapons are pretty risky behavior,” Coppernoll said. “If there’s a mistake or there’s events that take place with alcohol and firearms that makes it even worse, so we’re taking a look at those and making sure that the policies that already exist and are enforced.”

About 4,000 deployed soldiers returned to JBER in 2012, and Coppernoll says alcohol-related disciplinary problems have been on the rise lately.

“There’s a large number of different types of events or incidents that take place and one of the common themes whether it be ah suicide or suicide gestures or abuse, sexual assaults or fights in the barracks, and one of the common themes is alcohol and drug use,” Coppernoll said.

Coppernoll says urinalysis tests are already administered to soldiers to uncover drug use. Rules vary for drinking on-base, but generally drinking is allowed for those 21-years and older when they are not on duty. A national Army spokesperson didn’t have information on how common it is for bases to ban alcohol in barracks. A spokesman for Joint Base Lewis McChord near Tacoma, Washington says there is not a ban on alcohol in barracks for Army or Air Force personel there.

The new alcohol policies at JBER-Richardson, including the alcohol ban in barracks, will officially begin in February, but Coppernoll says lower level-commanders may already be implementing it.

  • Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.