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MCLB Marines Help Youth Avoid Drugs
By Pfc. Nicholas Tremblay
MCLB Albany

MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga.(July 19, 2001) — A 10-year-old boy is walking home from school when he sees a group of older children. They are standing in a circle smoking. The boys befriend the youngster and ask him if he would like to try a smoke. They also tell him that if he joins their gang they will treat him like family and look out for him.

picture of children swimming in pool
Danielle Whitaker and Kesha Moore, who participated in the Drug education for Youth program, play in the base pool Tuesday. Swimming was one of the many activities the DEFY program let the children do as a reward for their time spent learning about drugs and how to stay away from them.
(Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jason Blaze)

The young boy is nervous, but somewhat excited. Instead of going home to an empty house, because his mother is working, he could be making new friends.

As he reaches for the marijuana cigarette, he remembers what he learned from a Marine during a summer camp at the Marine Base.

Drug use by preteens and teens is rapidly increasing in the United States. To battle the rise in drug abuse by America's youth, programs such as Drug Education for Youth have been implemented. This program was started in 1992 by the U.S. Navy for family members of Navy personnel, said Pamela W. Lightsey, community relations specialist for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Georgia.

In 1996 the Department of Justice adopted the program to educate local community youth on drug prevention and gang violence. The Department of Justice decided to use Albany Police Officers from the Weed and Seed program along with Marines from MCLB to be role models and mentors in the DEFY program, said Lightsey.

For three consecutive years the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia, the Albany Police Department, and the Albany Marine Corps Logistics Base have sponsored the DEFY program.

A summer camp that was held here July 10-18 was a joint effort to keep local youth drug and gang free. The summer camp is Phase I of the DEFY program, said Lightsey. It is an intensive eight-day summer camp that promotes positive self-images, physical fitness, gang, and drug prevention classes and increases skills in interpersonal communication, conflict resolution and goal setting.

"We have the children exercise because nutrition and physical fitness are a huge part of being successful," said Lightsey. "Anything you want to do in life you need to have good nutrition, exercise and be physically fit to be your best."

Phase II is a schoolyear mentoring program, which matches adult volunteers with Phase I graduates, said Lightsey. The focus of this phase is to reinforce the themes introduced in summer camp. The mentors and youth will meet for a minimum of four hours a month for workshops, field trips and special events.

"The children not only have a wonderful time and learn a lot, but they become friends with these adults [the volunteer DEFY staff] who influence their lives in a really positive way," said Lightsey. The Department of Justice has MCLB Marines participating in this program to help teach, supervise and be role models for the youth, said Lightsey. "The discipline Marines have and their lifestyle and good manners make them excellent adults for the kids to look up to," said Lightsey.

"One thing that the Marines bring to the DEFY program is a different aspect of life," said 1st Lt. Derick C. Williams, operations officer for S-3 here. "Coming to the base, these kids get to see what the military life is like, and to see a product of discipline (Marines). The Marines that work with the kids will set good examples and hopefully become their mentors."

During the summer camp, youth were taught to solve problems by using teamwork, coping with peer pressure and every day stress, and avoiding drugs and violence, said Lightsey.

While on base the children were taught first aid, CPR basics and simple marching maneuvers. They also learned that it is important to exercise daily and to eat nutritiously.

"Marines also bring leadership, experience and knowledge from when they were kids and how they handled situations involving drugs, peer pressure and conflicts," said Staff Sgt. Jimmie L. Poole, training coordinator here.

"The purpose of teaching close order drill is to teach them discipline, to work together, and to get from point A to point B," said Williams.

DEFY sponsors hope to expand the program next year or in the years to come, said Lightsey. They would also like to make the program available to children of military personnel. This way, children from town and children from the base could form new friendships. red ribbon icon

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