"Can I buy you a drink?" "Got money in the bank?"

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When I joined the United States Air Force in August of 2007 I was sure I was making the right choice. After losing a large music scholarship and nearly getting kicked out of college because of academic reasons, I had nowhere to go. I wanted to be independent of my parents and get some discipline back because I thought at 19, it was time to think about growing up.

My family has a strong military background, my Dad and two of my uncles were Marines, while their oldest brother, served in the Air Force. My Grandpa served in the Army during World War II. Their encouragement combined with the fact that I could learn another language and get paid to do it sold me on the idea to join.

I chose the Air Force because it had a reputation of treating its members well, and had higher standards to join than other branches. I wanted to do something great, and in a time of war, I felt I had a duty to help protect my country and the freedom of those who live in it.

Joining as a linguist, I knew that my technical training was going to be long and tough. I knew there would be times where I would want to give up. I however, did not think about what I would do to deal with that. So, I did what I was used to doing in college: I drank.

I drank a lot. I turned 20 on the day I started my Farsi course in Monterey. And only a few months later, I was back to drinking nearly every weekend, regardless of what the command said about underage drinking. I was smarter than the system-or so I thought.

On August 26, 2008, I walked into the Assistant Flight Chief's office to get Phase Grad. I was so happy to sign those papers, because I had been for four months to get it. And within ten minutes of having it, I had lost it and was placed in phase two. Right after I signed the papers, one of my military training leaders asked me about multiple counts of underage drinking, which I quickly tried to deny, but it was no use-he knew I was lying because there were multiple eyewitnesses that had brought it to his attention. So I came clean.

For three months, I spent a lot of time in the Commander's hallway. I had extra appointments for alcohol classes and counseling and my schoolwork began to deteriorate rapidly. I could not concentrate. In the end I was given an Article 15 with thirty days restriction to base, a $300 fine and a suspension of my airman 1st class stripe.

I got this punishment on November 26th, three days before my twenty-first birthday. I never wanted to go through this kind of experience again, and I thought I would never have to, because I was legal age to drink. That's where I was wrong again.

Only two months after coming to San Angelo, I again failed to do what was right, I had grown restless and tired of this town and found very little to do. I started going to the club every weekend because it was a place I could blow off steam and drink-which was legal, right?

Yes it was. However, in order to drink, I left behind my underage friends on the weekends, and started to feel guilty that they could not have the same experience as me, and so when they began to pressure me to buy them alcohol, the answer seemed easy. Sure!

The night of February 22, I bought two of my underage friends two fifths of hard liquor from the base exchange; a bottle of rum and a bottle of whiskey. Then we headed to clubs.

Of course, our plan was that they would discreetly leave the club and go out to my car to drink a little before we would head back to base. I was going to be the designated driver. Seems foolproof right?

Well, after a shot, a few dances and a couple of beers later, I found just how badly I had miscalculated the situation. I had called my friend, who told me he and my other friend were drinking in the car, as planned. But he did not mention that the other one was nearly blackout drunk.

I went to the car and saw how drunk he was, and decided that there was no way I could take him back to base, and thought calling the cab was a bad idea because I had heard that sergeants drove them. And now I not only had to cover for him, but I was also scared for myself.

So we headed to the Rodeway Inn, where the real trouble started. You see, he was too drunk to reason, let alone walk on his own. He became unruly and loud and didn't want to go to the room I had paid $135 for. I suggested to him that he go back with the AADD program and at that point he began thinking that I was trying to get him in trouble.

To make a long story short, we fought, he got incredibly loud and the cops were called. He ran from the cops and ended up getting arrested the next morning after running into an old ladies house to keep from getting stabbed by a couple of guys trying to rob him.

It was all my fault. By trying to protect him, and ultimately myself, I had let him down and put him in danger. I put all three of our Air Force careers in jeopardy and made the Air Force look bad in the eyes of the public.

I had ultimately compromised the mission. We are here to protect American interests against all enemies foreign and domestic, and we are a well oiled machine. We work as one to accomplish this goal. We have the core values to remind us of how we are to accomplish this. Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do.

I broke laws when I thought I could get away with it, violating Integrity First. I thought only of having a good time without considering the consequences and then tried to cover it up, which led to my friend being put in a dangerous position and then getting arrested, which was selfish and not in accordance with Service before Self. These actions obviously did not show the excellence the Air Force is known for and upholds as an organization.

By the grace of God and my squadron commander, I am being given another chance. My commander was gracious in my punishment, but there were consequences. I lost my A1C stripe only months before I was supposed to put on my third stripe. Altogether, the loss of this stripe will cost me around $2,000. Also, I have had restrictions to base and extra duties on Saturday mornings. But I deserve those things. I know that I actually deserved to be discharged, but instead I am being given another chance to change myself for the better. I am staying positive and using this experience to help better me by changing my habits and being more conscious of my decisions.

I am sorry for letting my wingman down, I am sorry for letting the Air Force down. I am sorry for staining my family name, a family known for its service to this country. Nevermind the stripe I lost or the restrictions I have as a result.

I am just thankful that my friends and I are alive, and that we are all serving a cause greater than ourselves in the United States Air Force today. I am grateful that I am getting yet another chance to prove myself, and I am proud as ever to wear this uniform; but as I've said, I got lucky.

I know there are plenty of Airmen on this base that are in the position I was every weekend. Maybe one of them is you. If so, think about how much that drink you are about ready to buy is worth. $2000? Your freedom? And think about your wingman. Do you want to let him down? Do you want to slow down the mission? We are fighting a war. Do you really want to help the other side?

(Written by an Airman to help other Airmen avoid making the same bad decisions.)