Club Military Base Aimed at Reducing Georgia DUI

The lure of Savannah, Georgia, with its late night bars and dance clubs, meant potential trouble for the soldiers at Fort Stewart. An evening of fun the 45 mile return drive to the base could lead to a Georgia DUI or a drunk driving fatality. Commanders at the US Army post recognized the problem and decided to pursue a novel solution. They opened an on-base club.

$300,000 was spent converting a closed sports bar into Rocky’s, a bar and nightclub meant to compete with the party scene of Savannah. A DJ keeps the dance floor full with a loud sound system and synchronized lights. The main bar area has 18 flat-screen TVs and 10 video-game kiosks. There is also a mini-theater where patrons can watch DVDs on a 120-inch screen with surround-sound speakers.

Besides offering alcohol and dance, the commanders knew there was another necessary ingredient for the club’s success. They eased base access restrictions so civilians, especially women, could party at Rocky’s.

“We never want to glamorize alcohol, but we’ve got to be realistic about this,” said Garrison Commander Col. Todd Buchs, “If we know they’re going to drink, let’s provide a safe place for them to drink so we know they’re going to be alive the next morning.”

That concern is well founded, as traffic deaths among soldiers nationwide has risen 28 percent since soldiers began returning from the war in Iraq. Alcohol was involved in the deaths of at least seven of the 13 Fort Stewart soldiers killed in traffic accidents in 2006, Buchs said.

It has been nearly five months since Fort Stewart, home of the 19,000-soldier 3rd Infantry Division, has recorded a traffic death. Many consider Rocky’s, which opened last November, to be a contributing factor.

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