No More Late Night Alcohol Sales: Army and Air Force Exchange Stores to Ban the Practice Next Month

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AAFES Vicenza Main Exchange
Grand re-opening of the AAFES Vicenza Main Exchange on June 15, 2021. (AFN Vicenza photo)

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES, says that beginning Jan. 1 it will no longer sell alcohol between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at its stores in the U.S. and around the world.

The change on Army and Air Force bases is meant to support the Pentagon's suicide prevention initiative, which said that limiting when alcohol is available "reduces heavy drinking and other adverse outcomes associated with alcohol misuse," including suicide, according to Defense Department research and recommendations.

Other initiatives listed in the recommendations by the suicide prevention committee, created by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in 2022, included increasing the price of alcohol sold on Pentagon property, establishing 24/7 sobriety programs for service members arrested or convicted for alcohol-related crimes, and banning the promotion of alcohol on military bases.

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"Consistent with the Department of Defense's Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee's recommendations, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is aligning the times alcohol can be sold to be consistent with that of DoD's other military exchanges," Chris Ward, a spokesperson for AAFES, told Military.com by email Friday.

The latest initiative affects 161 Express, Class Six and other exchange stores worldwide, according to Ward, who also indicated that the change would have little impact on sales for that time frame.

"Alcohol sales after 2200 and before 0600 at the 161 stores impacted accounted for less than 1% of total alcohol sales last year," he said.

Stars and Stripes reported that 25% of AAFES outlets sell alcohol in the soon-to-be-banned time frame. The publication also reported that the Navy Exchange stopped selling alcohol between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at more than 100 locations a decade ago as a way to stop sexual assault and alcohol-related offenses.

"Junior enlisted service members spoke openly about their own excessive use, including how they recognized their own drinking was problematic," according to the report with the final recommendations of the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee.

"Other service members spoke about past alcohol-related convictions, especially driving under the influence (DUI) charges, and military law enforcement at every installation told us that excessive alcohol use is involved in most of the on-base incidents to which they respond," it added.

The study by the committee, which was an independent panel, said that 18% of service members who died by suicide in 2021 were diagnosed with an alcohol-use disorder. Other findings said that 10% of troops engaged in heavy drinking or binge drinking at least once per week over the month the study measured.

Outside of limited hours and banning alcohol promotion, the study recommended that additional training be implemented to prevent abusive alcohol consumption.

"Revised training should include modules and information about alcohol use and misuse, the alcohol content of drinks, what constitutes healthy versus unhealthy and excessive drinking, how alcohol impairs judgment and performance as well as increases risk for suicide and perpetrating sexual violence, and strategies for recognizing and addressing harmful drinking in oneself and others," it said.

-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on X @df_lawrence.

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