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21st Birthday Training: Teaching Responsible Drinking at USNA

  POSTED ON: Friday, March 28, 2014 8:00 AM by Naval Academy Public Affairs

Typically, when a young person reaches the age of 21 they are unaware of their limits in handling alcohol. But thanks to United States Naval Academy 21st Birthday Training, when Midshipmen reach the age of 21, they have the opportunity to attend a seminar in which they are able to see how they handle alcohol in a safe, practical and sometimes humorous environment.

Midshipman 1st Class Phil Solt, Brigade AEDO, runs the 21’st Birthday Training along with LT Andrew Martin and his staff. The training, which is run once a month with 60-70 midshipmen at a time, allows midshipmen to have up to 3 drinks of either beer or wine with their dinner.

Throughout the dinner, DoD Police Officers speak to the midshipmen about the negative effects of drinking and driving in addition to dangers associated with alcohol abuse. Instructional videos are shown and DoD officers answer any questions that midshipmen may have.

Following dinner, 3-4 Midshipmen are selected by DoD police to conduct a sobriety test. The real life demonstrations have a huge impact on Midshipmen, as they are able to see the clear signs of impairment and potential danger someone could cause after just 3 drinks.

Solt pointed out that this real life scenario is a huge factor in the education of midshipmen.

“This is a true wake-up call for several Midshipmen because they find out what their BAC is after having 3 drinks over dinner and whether or not they could legally drive home in their current condition,” he said.

Solt believes the program is important as one of the few training evolutions at the academy with immediate application.

“We all know of people who drink – or drink ourselves – and this training sheds some light into how alcohol truly impairs the body and the negative consequences than can happen if people aren’t careful.”

Before departing for the night, each midshipman in attendance is given a breathalyzer test. This further allows midshipmen to determine their legal limit, which is not based off how someone may feel. 

“Conducting the breathalyzer and sobriety test at the end of the night also lets midshipmen know whether they can or cannot legally operate a vehicle as opposed to just guessing based off how they feel,” said Solt. 

The Naval Academy teaches all midshipmen that irresponsible use of alcohol is inconsistent with the mission of the Naval Academy and is not to be tolerated. The Naval Academy supports an aggressive alcohol abuse prevention program like the 21st Birthday trainings, which encourages Midshipmen to take personal ownership for their actions, assume responsibility for the welfare of their peers and subordinates, and avoid the destructive use of alcohol. 

The 21st Birthday training was designed to carry out this mission, in a creative environment. The 21st Birthday training is unique because it highlights both the negative effects of alcohol and the positives of responsible alcohol use by those of age. 

Midshipmen emerge from 21st Birthday training with a fresh perspective on drinking, responsible use of alcohol and a greater sense of responsibility.