Volunteer group makes efforts to ensure servicemembers get safe rides home

Inside the Gates
Volunteer group makes efforts to ensure service members get safe rides home
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 4:11 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2023 at 10:03 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With the holidays around the corner, a group of soldiers operating out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson are making sure active-duty service members are getting a safe ride home after spending a night out.

JBADD — which stands for “Joint Base Against Drunk Driving” — is an extension of the Better Opportunities for Single Service Members (BOSS) program. The volunteers provide safe, anonymous, and free rides home to members of JBER and other Department of Defense ID cardholders, preventing drunk driving incidents and the number of DUIs across the installation.

JBADD runs its operation out of the Warrior Center on JBER from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night, ramping up efforts during the holidays.

President of JBADD’s council, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Salcedo Orozco, has been active in the program for nearly two years. He heard about it while enrolled in an airmen leadership school.

“One of my buddies in that class told me about the program, and I figured I’d check it out, and kind of stuck with it ever since,” Salcedo Orozco said.

He said he first showed up to learn more about the incentive program but found it so rewarding after the first couple of weekends that he decided to continue volunteering.

Volunteers not only get service members home safely, but they also receive incentives after accruing a certain number of volunteer hours. For every 50 hours of volunteer time, members of JBADD are recognized with a Certificate of Achievement signed by an 0-6, an ERB and 5 promotion points for Army members, and a “day off” for Air Force members. The Army Achievement Medal is awarded for any branch of service after 300 hours.

It was a similar story for Airman 1st Class Joey Plemens-Schunk, JBADD’s treasurer, who has logged 500 volunteer hours since starting in April.

“Originally, it was the incentive of just being recognized for hard work, but as I started going through it I really got invested in it and I really enjoy it now,” Plemens-Schunk said. “I don’t have anything else going on, so why not do something for the community.”

Plemens-Schunk believes he’s put around 3,000 miles on his personal vehicle driving for JBADD — a concept that doesn’t bother him as much as it impresses him. JBER does provide the volunteers with a gas card that has a monthly limit but all other costs, such as vehicle wear and insurance, are deferred to vehicle owners.

For the group’s officer advisor, Capt. Savannah Rosenberg, the program is close to her heart.

“I have a story with a previous airman and we were thankful to save their lives with a program like this,” Rosenberg said. “Knowing that there’s a bigger program here that goes across the entire base, I was like, that sounds amazing, and I went in one Friday night and I never left.”

Rosenberg works as a nurse and acknowledged that Alaska is a difficult first-duty station with cold temperatures and dark winters.

The group wants service members to know that the rideshare is completely anonymous and they do not inform a service member’s chain of command if they opt to use the service.

According to Salcedo Orozco, the group receives an average of 10 calls per weekend, picking up 20 to 30 people, but they see a spike in calls during holidays.

Another incentive the program offers is the allowance to log double hours during those holidays to encourage more people to volunteer their time. The group said they are always in need of more volunteers, and anybody interested in joining JBADD should reach out through their social media page.

JBADD recommends its service be used as a “last resort” to not overwhelm the volunteers on any given night, but is committed to picking up anyone that calls.

“If your DD falls through, you have a safe option to get home,” Rosenberg said.

Any individual who is a Department of Defense ID card holder and is in need of a safe ride home — whether on or off base — can call JBADD at 907-384-RIDE (7433).