Alcoholism & Addiction

Airmen in Japan Dress Up as Gorillas, Offer Rides to Help Prevent Drunk Driving

If you’re near the Misawa Air Base in Japan and see gorillas walking around in shorts, don’t be alarmed—it’s just airmen from the 35th Maintenance Squadron volunteering to help keep people from drinking and driving.

T.D. Flack of Stars and Stripes reports that the airmen offered free rides to people and even provided a free daiko—the Japanese word used to describe a service in which a sober person drives the drunken person’s car home.

The volunteers, all members of the sqaudron’s “Accessories Flight,” explained that after 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. David Stilwell aired a special TV and radio broadcast in mid July to warn the community about a recent spike in alcohol-related incidents, they gathered to discuss what they could do to help.

“We wanted to perform a nice service for the community and also have a little fun ourselves," said Staff Sgt. John Rorie, who came up with the idea of the costumes. "Basically to grab everyone’s attention.”

They ordered the costumes—two gorilla suits and one giant banana suit—and printed a batch of fliers announcing Monkeys Against Drunk Driving. They handed out the fliers at bars on August 1, making sure people knew they would offer the free service on August 8.

Between 10 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. on the 8th, they safely transported 76 people to their homes—people who could have gotten behind the wheel of a car or gotten into trouble walking home.

Flight Chief Senior Master Sgt. Steven Tuggle praised his troops for their "self-initiated" action, pointing out that they bought the costumes themselves and used their own cars and gas money, as well as gave up their free time.

"These guys are actually going to the customer and handing out the fliers, and what better way than dressed up as a primate from the zoo," Tuggle said.

Rorie said they’d like to recruit enough volunteers to run the service every weekend, but with only nine people, they have to limit it to once a month for now. However, they plan on getting in one more night, Aug. 22, before an upcoming exercise.

They’re also hoping that other flights or squadrons see what they’ve done and take the challenge of developing their own programs.

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