Face of Defense: Soldier Mentors Kids on Drug Dangers
By Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany, Apr. 12, 2011 As Army Sgt. Mark Arnett wraps up his tenure here teaching kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, he can look back knowing he made an impact on children's lives.
Army Sgt. Mark Arnett and Army Spc. Kathy Ogburn, military police officers assigned to U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern, Germany, examine a lesson plan for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. National D.A.R.E. Day was April 7, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Rick Scavetta
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
For the past two years, Arnett has taught the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in the Kaiserslautern Military Community's four elementary schools.
"It's been great for me to see the difference D.A.R.E. is making in kids' lives," Arnett said. "The light bulb goes on and the wheels are turning," he said of how quickly children understand the message about the risks of drug and alcohol use.
Since 1983, D.A.R.E. has taught millions of students worldwide about the dangers associated with using alcohol and drugs. National D.A.R.E. Day is observed each April in the United States by a presidential proclamation, community events and other activities. This year, President Barrack Obama declared April 7 as National D.A.R.E. Day.
It's been a few weeks since Arnett taught his final D.A.R.E. class here. He departs Kaiserslautern soon for Fort Knox, Ky., where he’ll serve with the 1st Infantry Division.
Meanwhile, Arnett said when kids see him in the Kaiserslautern community, they ask him to come back.
"That's rewarding, to know that they learned and that it was a fun experience for them," he said.
During a previous duty tour at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Arnett donned the McGruff the Crime Dog suit and shook hands with kids. He had never been in front of a classroom, but in becoming Kaiserslautern's D.A.R.E. instructor, Arnett learned the subtleties of teaching.
"As a soldier, you instruct your peers," he said. "It's totally different in front of fifth graders, trying to get them to listen to you."
Department of Defense Dependents Schools students here complete 10 lessons over several weeks, working from D.A.R.E. planners, Arnett said. Weekly lessons include students acting out skits on peer pressure and watching videos about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
In Europe, where beer and wine are often part of the local culture, alcohol is easier to obtain at a younger age. Children living overseas know that, Arnett said.
"We stress the impacts alcohol has on young bodies, the adverse effects that it can have," he said. "Kids are pretty smart. They know it's bad for you, just not how bad it can be."
What kids learn in D.A.R.E. can have a ripple effect within their families, Arnett said. One Kaiserslautern fifth-grader recently brought her lessons home and helped her mother quit smoking, he said.
Staffing a D.A.R.E. officer for Kaiserslautern Military Community schools make sense, as police in military communities mirror the work of their civilian counterparts, said Master Sgt. Kenneth Pryor, U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern’s provost sergeant.
"It gives us an opportunity to have an officer go into the classroom, so the kids don't just see a police officer as a cop," Pryor said. "It humanizes the individual."
In February, Lt. Col. Kevin Hutchison, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern, spoke at the Kaiserslautern Elementary School graduation. He thanked Arnett for his efforts in making the D.A.R.E. program a success.
"He is the face of D.A.R.E. in our community," Hutchison said.
Arnett will pass the D.A.R.E. teaching reins to Army Spc. Kathy Ogburn. In less than four years as a military police officer, Ogburn has served at Fort Hood, Texas, and helped train local police in Afghanistan. She said she’s excited about taking on new challenges here.
"I've worked the road and I've deployed," Ogburn said. "Now, I get a chance to do something completely different."