Representative Bob Lynn, of the Alaska state legislature, has proposed a bill that would lower the drinking age in Alaska to 18 for members of the military. This is a bad idea, and here is my argument why.
1. The justification for the bill is that if someone is old enough to die in battle, they should be able to drink. This justification is a fallacy; if you are deployed to the sandbox, there aren’t any bars you can just walk into to get a drink, so the justification doesn’t apply. Also, during a deployment, you are essentially on the clock all the time, so drunkeness is a big no-no. While I was deployed, the consumption of alcohol was not allowed for anyone on-base, so the fact I turned 21 while in theater was irrelevant; I couldn’t drink the day before my birthday, and I couldn’t drink the day after.
2. THERE IS NO FEDERAL DRINKING AGE. Let me say that again, there is no law that says you must be 21 to consume alcohol in the United States. Drinking age is a state law, not a federal one. The catch is if the age is not 21 in your state, the fed withholds transportation funds, which forces the states to make it 21. Since a military base is federal land, and there is no federal drinking age, the age to drink on base is solely determined by the base commander, who is typically a colonel or general. When I was stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana, the drinking age for service members was 21, same as outside the base for the general public. When I visited Fort Bliss in El Paso, the drinkng age was 18, because the base commander didn’t want soldiers going over the river to Cuidad Juarez to drink. When I was returning from deployment, I was at an air base in Frankfurt, Germany for a week and the drinking age was 18 again. If a soldier can get a drink outside the base legally while under 21, the chain of command would prefer you drink on-base, so they lower the drinking age accordingly.
3. While I was underage stationed in Louisiana, much like college live, getting alcohol was never a problem. If I wanted to have a beer, I would either go to the bar and get some, or if I didn’t want the hassle of potentially being labeled as underage, I would have one of my older buddies buy me some alcohol from the Class 6 (the on-base liquor store). If people want a drink, regardless of their age, they will be able to get a drink.
4. Military bases have a curious relationship with the cities that surround them; the city only exists because the base is there, but the base has to keep the city happy, so they continue to treat the soldiers nicely. If a horde of drunken 19 year olds were suddenly allowed to run free in the city, the city would not be happy, and the base would ultimately suffer. So from a political standpoint, it is in the best interest of the base to keep the drinking age at 21.
That is why the drinking age for service members should stay in its present configuration. As always, I encourage you to please comment on the article and let me know what you think.