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DoD Programs Lauded for Preventing Drug Abuse

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 1999 – Six programs dedicated to keeping individuals off drugs received Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Awards in a Pentagon ceremony Oct. 20.

The winners from each service are: the Army's Protect Our Children project at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La.; the Navy's centralized Drug Education For Youth program; Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan; and the Air Force's Team Charleston, 437th Medical Group, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

The Office of Occupational Health, Environmental and Safety Services of the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Md., won the defense agency award. The Methamphetamines Awareness Program of the Iowa National Guard won for the National Guard Bureau.

The Community Drug Awareness Awards highlight outstanding commitments to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and are part of DoD's ninth annual observance of Red Ribbon Week, this year Oct. 18-22. Rudy de Leon, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, presented the awards with Iowa Rep. Tom Latham and former Washington Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey.

A committee from within the Office of the Secretary of Defense chooses the winners.

"One of our most important responsibilities is to share with our countrymen the role models that are serving in uniform every day," de Leon said at the ceremony. "Being drug-free is central to their integrity, central to their philosophy."

De Leon also praised the young people who participate in such programs around the country. "These are the young people who in 10 years and in 15 years are going to be occupying the uniforms and the business suits," he said. "We salute you for your discipline and your hard work and the commitment that you bring to your communities."

Harvey, a four-time Pro Bowl player, said the individuals who run these programs, not athletes or television stars, are the real heroes of society.

"I'm just up here one time. I'll say a speech and I'll walk away," he said. "But it's the men and women here who not only do the little things, but do the extra things to make sure that this can be a better place.

"I want to salute and congratulate everyone here," Harvey went on to say. "You guys are the ones who every day take the time to make something happen, to believe in someone, to look at the person across from you and say not only 'Don't do it,' but 'Let me help you find the right way.'"

During the ceremony, a DoD spokesman described the highlights of each of the winning programs.

Proactive programs, such as a youth fishing pond, military police bicycle patrols and unique chapel programs, contributed to a 250-percent decline in drug incidents involving Fort Polk youths, the DoD spokesman said when describing the Army winner. In one year, installation employees and volunteers presented special drug-prevention shows 38 times to nearly 7,000 children, the spokesman said.

The Navy's DEFY program is managed from the Washington Navy Yard here and conducted at 36 Navy and Marine Corps bases worldwide. The multiphased, one-year program focuses on at- risk youth between ages 9 and 12. According to information in the program's nomination packet, primary exposure to high-risk behaviors occurs during the middle school years.

In 1998, the Navy and the Department of Justice working together reached 101 sites and enrolled more that 5,400 youths in the program, the DoD spokesman said. In 1999, the Air Force also became a partner in the DEFY program.

Several educational programs throughout the Iwakuni community combined to yield substantial results for the Marine Corps winner. According to the nomination packet, additional training led to a 100-percent reduction in drug crimes among service members assigned to Iwakuni and a 55- percent reduction in property damages. There have been no drug cases in the station's civilian population.

The Air Force's "Team Charleston" concept includes a military and selected-civilian drug-testing program, anti- drug education classes, community interventions to prevent youth drug use, and networking with community law- enforcement agencies to keep unit commanders abreast of local drug events and threats, the DoD spokesman said.

The National Security Agency winner is part of an expansive and contemporary drug-abuse policy and testing program that serves one of the larger federal employers in Maryland, the spokesman said. The anti-drug-abuse program represents a comprehensive outreach strategy that highlights illegal- drug awareness and prevention through interactive exhibits, articles in an internal newsletter, bulletin boards and pamphlet racks, and one-on-one consultations, he said.

The highlight of the Iowa National Guard program is its Meth Trainer, a converted trailer seized in a 1993 drug investigation that is now packed with information, static displays, brochures and a computer kiosk with touch-screen technology. The Meth Trainer has visited more than 150 communities in 13 months, reaching more than 20,000 people. The spokesman said it travels 3,000 miles per month.

"These people are on the front lines at home in every community in the state of Iowa," Latham said. "We have a real problem in Iowa that's unique -- a meth explosion. These people have made a real difference."

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