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DoD Commemorates Annual Red Ribbon Week

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2004 – The Defense Department today recognized several anti-drug-education and drug-abuse-awareness programs during the kickoff of its 14th annual Red Ribbon Week observance.

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Retired Army Gen. and former Drug policy Adviser to the White House Barry McCaffrey spoke at the Pentagon's 14th annual Red Ribbon Week observance today. During his speech, McCaffrey called the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse "one of the most important problems facing America." DoD recognized several drug education and abuse awareness programs throughout the military at the event. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Today's event, held on the Pentagon main concourse, included several guest speakers, among them retired Army Gen. and former Drug Policy Adviser to the White House Barry McCaffrey, who called the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse one of the most important problems facing America.

McCaffrey said 1979 was the peak year for drug use in the country and about the time drugs were having the most devastating effect in the military. He pointed out that in 1980 27.6 percent of military personnel admitted to using an illegal drug.

As a battalion commander in Germany in the mid 1970s, he said drugs had almost brought his unit's effectiveness to a halt. "It destroyed our professionalism to a large extent, our physical strength, our spiritual vitality to the core. Never again."

Today, McCaffrey said, there has been a big change in the culture of drug use in the military, pointing out that in 1998 admitted drug used was down to 2.7 percent among active duty, and less than a percentage point among Guard and Reserve forces.

"It is an incredible change in the environment," he said.

The general said he credits that change to the sergeants and petty officers of the armed forces. "We changed the culture," he said. "At the end of the day, our noncommissioned officer corps said, 'On this ship, in this squadron, in this battalion, we're not going to use drugs.

"'And those of you who won't stay within that culture, we won't arrest you and jail you; we'll tell you you can't stay among us.'"

McCaffrey also credited the military and civilian award recipients being honored at the ceremony, telling them that because of their leadership, the military now has one of the largest drug-free organizations in the United States.

Thomas W. O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, presented the Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Awards to several military units and installations for their drug- education and -awareness efforts.

O'Connell also presented the fourth-annual Fulcrum Shield award to the most deserving military-affiliated youth organization. That award was presented to the American Cadet Alliance for making anti-drug training among service cadets part of the promotion criteria.

Among the other community anti-drug-awareness programs recognized were:

  • Army Substance Abuse Program, Fort Stewart Ga., which provided pre- and post-deployment drug education and testing as well as face-to-face prevention and education classes to over 300 units.

  • The 100 Percent Pure Marine Program, Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21, Pensacola, Fla. The drug-free program was promoted with T- shirts and posters to encourage healthy living.

  • Drug Education for Youth, or DEFY, Washington Navy Yard, D.C. DEFY organizers operated 46 anti-drug camps for youth ages 9-12 worldwide. DEFY opened eight new camps last year.

  • Wisconsin National Guard Low Ropes program. This program helped changed the attitude of students in more than 235 schools in the state about drugs and alcohol usage.

  • Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Drug Demand Reduction Program. The program helped decease by half the number of positive drug-test results. The program also increased testing by 10 percent.

  • The Defense Supply Center Columbus Employee Assistance Program, Defense Logistics Agency, Columbus, Ohio, was recognized for the fourth straight year for serving more than 3,400 employees through its drug- awareness programs. This year the agency urged employees to sign resolutions to live healthy, drug-free lives.
Red Ribbon Week began in 1985 following the torture death of Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique Camarena by drug traffickers in Mexico. Residents of Camarena's hometown of Calexico, Calif., began wearing red ribbons to symbolize his death.

In 1990, the Defense Department began it's own drug-awareness campaign and recognition programs. The department started an award program to encourage servicemembers to become involved in keeping communities drug-free.

The Pentagon observance, which ends Oct. 27, includes drug-education and - awareness displays that focus attention on drugs' destructive effects.

The theme for this year's observance is "Drug Free -- I Have the Power."

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Related Sites:
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
Red Ribbon Week

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