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Crossing the Red Line

Crossing the Red Line

Correctional custody may be an Airman’s last chance

The red lines are confining. They’re a constant reminder of the worst that can happen to an Airman who breaks the rules.

“Leavenworth,” is how one young Airman describes doing time in correctional custody. His crime? Providing alcohol to minors at a dorm party. He knew better, but he gave in to peer pressure.

This Airman’s story isn’t much different from others at the Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., joint correctional custody facility. For the military members there, a momentary lapse in judgment led them down a road they didn’t expect to travel.

Correctional custody is an effective tool commanders can use to rehabilitate troops who commit a non-judicial offense. It takes close, continuous supervision and training to get those who stray back on track. At Keesler, doing that is the job of two permanently assigned, and five temporarily assigned, noncommissioned officers from the Air Force and Navy.

Keesler’s program doesn’t just rehabilitate Airmen, it also saves the military money. In 2003, the program saved the Air Force more than $4.6 million by rehabilitating 164 Airmen rather than replacing them with new recruits. On average, the price to recruit, train and relocate just one Airman is $30,000, according to a cost benefit analysis prepared by Master Sgt. Jerry Keeton, superintendent of Keesler’s Correctional Custody. Add that to the efforts of other Air Force correctional facilities worldwide and the savings increases even more.

Saving the Air Force money is always an important factor, but returning Airmen to duty as productive members of the military is worth more, Sergeant Keeton said. He sees his contribution to recover wayward Airmen as a chance to save careers — if not a person.

“I get my greatest satisfaction from seeing their transformation,” he said. “Seeing them go from less-than-stellar performers to troops who can walk out our front door proudly wearing their full service dress uniform.”

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Crossing the Red Line