Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Lessons Learned from Mistakes

by Kim Brumley, Staff Writer
Mobility Forum

2/4/2013 - SCOTT AFB, IL. -- A night out on the town with friends, sipping on a few ice cold beers, and then driving home was at one time a regular weekend of fun for Staff Sgt. Robert Behm. As a young man, somewhat oblivious to the repercussions of his actions, he had the mindset of "It's just a few, I'm not drunk, I can drive home -- no problem." But the sobering events of one night in 2009 changed his outlook on drinking and driving, as well as the course of his life.

After leaving a social gathering where he had been drinking, Behm got into his car and drove away. He said, "I didn't think I was drunk." Even after he was pulled over by a police officer, Behm still did not think he was intoxicated enough to go to jail. He was in denial even as he was handcuffed, placed in the back of the police car, and taken to the station. It wasn't until he was being booked and charged with driving under the influence that he realized just how serious the situation was. After analyzing the series of events that night, he said, "it wasn't the result of one bad decision; it was the result of a toppling tower of bad decisions" that landed him behind bars.

"I kept thinking that it couldn't happen to me. I was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force, and I am as responsible and successful as they come. I had to live a lie and deny my own immaturity to make those choices. I really thought that I could drink and drive responsibly. It took red and blue lights in my rearview mirror to see how far off I was in my decision making and how one poor choice could change my life ... or worse -- the life of someone else."

Behm was forced to reevaluate his carefree lifestyle and make some needed changes. The alterations went beyond his personal life and into his military career, where he is taking his hard-learned lesson and using it to educate other Airmen on the hazards of drinking and driving. This year, he is one of 10 chosen as a representative for the Airman-to-Airman Safety Advisory Council. This unique peer council is predominately comprised of representatives close in age (17-26) reaching out to those most likely to have mishaps. Each representative has been directly or indirectly involved in a mishap that resulted from poor choices.

Since his appointment to the council, Behm has worked at AMC and briefed the wing at Scott AFB, Ill., delivered eight briefings at Vandenberg, Calif., and briefed his squadron. He will be speaking at a Wingman Day, at Airmen Leadership School in Clarksville, Tenn., and Charleston AFB, S.C., and at the First Term Airman Center for Airmen on their first enlistment. He said talking at FTAC is particularly important because "I want to try to get them off on the right foot."

At every talk, Behm encourages questions and lets attendees know that nothing is off limits. He also motivates his audiences not to have feelings of inspiration from his story, but to have feelings of detestation.

He said, "If people can feel as disgusted by my actions as I do, then maybe they can learn the lesson from me instead of the hard way. Some have anger that I'm still in the Air Force, and I respect that. I share with them that I was blessed and learned from that situation, and now there are so many that are benefitting."

In addition to the briefings, Behm has also been active in producing videos to raise awareness on a variety of safety issues. He was featured on the AMC Critical Days of Summer 2012 video, as well as a one-minute video shot for the Airman-to-Airman (A2A) program. The A2A team combined their safety knowledge to write, act, and shoot another safety video. He said, "We tried to make it memorable so that those who watched it would think about what they were doing next time they were put in the same situations."

Although Behm and the other Airmen featured in these videos have made mistakes in the past, they can be commended for their work in educating others with the hope that their fellow Airmen do not repeat the same avoidable and potentially life threatening mishaps.

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