Drunk US airman caught swerving across middle of the road

RAF Mildenhall - an American base since 1959 and scheduled to close from 2027. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Kenneth Powell is based at RAF Mildenhall - Credit: Gregg Brown

An American airman with an "impeccable record" has been banned from the road for 19 months after being caught drink-driving. 

United States Air Force (USAF) Sergeant Kenneth Powell, 28, who is based at RAF Mildenhall, was caught by police at Red Lodge on July 2 this year, Suffolk Magistrates' Court heard. 

Powell had been to RAF Lakenheath for an American Independence Day celebration and was travelling on the A11 around 11.30pm when police heard a loud noise from his car's exhaust. 

Lesla Small, prosecuting, said Powell, who was behind the wheel of a Dodge GT car, was also seen swerving across the central white line on the carriageway. 

Powell was stopped by police and tested positive for alcohol at the roadside. 

He was taken to Bury St Edmunds police investigation centre and blew 69 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. 

The airman's reading was nearly twice the legal limit of 35mcg in 100ml of breath. 

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Appearing at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Friday, Powell, of St Peter's Walk, Hockwold, near Brandon, pleaded guilty to drink driving. 

Robert Ireland, mitigating, said his client arrived at the July 4 celebration around 7pm and had not intended to drink alcohol.

But he decided to start drinking with colleagues around 9pm, Mr Ireland said. 

"It is an action he deeply regrets," Mr Ireland told the court.

"It impacts not only on his personal life but also his career in the military."

Powell crossed the central white line because he realised his underglow lights were on, Mr Ireland said. 

Powell, who is stationed at RAF Mildenhall until December 2023 and has no previous convictions, was placed on an alcohol rehabilitation course by the base, the court heard. 

Mr Ireland said Powell has an "impeccable military record" and there was a possibility he could be court martialled for the offence. 

Mr Ireland also read two references for Powell from RAF Mildenhall in which he was described as an "outstanding airman". 

Magistrates banned Powell from driving for 19 months and he was fined £346. 

He was also ordered to pay £105 in costs and a victim surcharge of £35. 

Magistrates also offered Powell the opportunity to take a drink-drive rehabilitation course, which will reduce his ban by 19 weeks if completed by the specified date.