Face of Defense: Airman Revives Base’s Designated Driver Program

Nala Cormier was 11 years old on the day she heard sudden, frantic noises of hysteria and dismay outside her family’s home in Church Point, Louisiana. She followed the sounds until she found the source — her older sister holding her toddler son in her arms, wailing.

“A drunk driver swerved into our yard,” Cormier said. “They hit my nephew and kept driving. He was only three years old. He didn’t make it.”

Today, Cormier, an Air Force airman first class and medical technician at the 11th Medical Group here, serves as the president of the Andrews Against Drunk Driving organization. She said the loss of her young nephew fueled her passion for preventing similar tragedies.

“I saw how much hurt my family was put through because of a drunk driver,” Cormier said. “And I don’t want anyone to have to go through that simply because one of our airmen felt like they had no other way home.”

Taking Initiative

When she arrived here in March 2017, she immediately began the process of reinstituting the base’s designated driver program, which had been inactive for about a year.

“After I met with my first sergeant, I found out we didn’t have an AADD on base,” Cormier said. “I thought; ‘Ok, why not? Let’s get it started.’”

Since then, she’s been able to round up a small team of volunteers and designate a vice president, two drivers and a dispatcher. After receiving official approval, they were able to start responding to calls in late 2017.

One of the program’s initiatives is a display of a battered car at the base’s main gate to raise awareness and showcase the dangers of drunk driving. During the holiday season, they supported unit holiday parties in need of designated drivers.

Raising Awareness

“Lately, we’ve been focusing on making the AADD dispatcher number available to service members by speaking at the ‘Welcome to Joint Base Andrews’ briefings and First-Term Airman Courses,” Cormier said.

Cormier said she also warns fellow service members that crashing a vehicle is only one of the many potential negative effects of drunk driving.

“When you drink and drive, it takes a toll on your career, your life and everyone around you.” Cormier said. “If I can stop one part of it a little, then I’m proud to have helped another airman. Whether you know it or not, every time you get behind the wheel as someone’s designated driver, you’re saving a life or a career.”

Air Force Master Sgt. Johnathan L. Dixon, first sergeant of the 11th Medical Group, said he supports Cormier’s efforts to ensure the safety of service members.

“Our leadership teaches us to have a plan,” Dixon said. “As I talk to my airmen — young and old alike — I ensure that they know of AADD, as well as other options to assist with them having a plan to return home, whether on base or off, safely.”