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DEFY Volunteers Investing in Future at Reno Conference
By JO2 Paul Noel
DEFY Public Affairs

RENO, Nev. (NWS) — More than 115 Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel recently gathered at Reno, Nev., to achieve a common goal — making strong kids for strong families, for a ready fleet.

The military and civilian members are part of the Secretary of the Navy's Drug Education For Youth (DEFY) program. Military and civilian personnel traveled from sites around the world to learn new ways of keeping children entertained and educated during the program's week-long youth camps, which are followed by a year of mentoring.

They reviewed classroom materials for the 20 hours of instruction they will give to the children, and played some of the same "team building" games that the youth will learn.

"The program is an ideal example of what is possible when people unite for a worthwhile cause, with unmasked energy, and most importantly, a strong commitment to make a difference in the lives of our young people," said Charles Tompkins, former deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, manpower and Reserve affairs (personnel programs).

Commander Bill Correllus, who also spoke at the conference, is currently filling that position in an acting capacity. Correllus said by being involved with DEFY, those at the conference were serving their country in a dual position.

"I have the highest regard for what they're doing," Correllus praised. "They're doing their job in the military, and doing this as a collateral duty." Chief Hospital Corpsman Anthony Zilar, a training and operations coordinator for the DEFY camp at Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Wash., said he has seen the results of the program first-hand. "It teaches kids how to resolve conflict and how to go about making choices to stay away from drugs."

Zilar has seen many of his DEFY graduates complete high school, some at the top of their class in the six years he has been involved with the program. "I'll continue with the DEFY program throughout my enlistment," Zilar added. Commander Ben Pancho, DEFY director, said the professionalism and passion displayed by all those involved with the program was commendable. Like all the DEFY staff, Pancho is a Reservist on "Active Duty for Special Work," and is a civilian educator.

"I wish there were more educators that have the same passion that each of you have," Pancho told the group. Correllus said many outreach programs often receive minimal funding, and DEFY has freed itself from the chopping block twice in the past several years.

"DEFY is what makes America strong for the future, and I think that is what makes it so important," Correllus said, adding that a five-year budget was approved last year, which will allow for some growth in the near future. "Now it's on the right course. I feel really good about seeing the benefit and seeing the possibilities of a program like this. Some of these kids will become leaders and scholars. Who knows what else they'll become."

Last year, the Air Force joined ranks with DEFY and now has 12 camps worldwide. Air Force Demand Reduction Outreach coordinator Dr. Milton Cambridge said he sees a lot of potential with the program.

"Addiction is a relapsing illness and the key period of drug experimentation is among 9- to 12-year-olds," Cambridge said. "The DEFY program is pitched at the right level."

Cambridge said he hopes to have the DEFY program grow in the Air Force at a rate of five bases a year. Since its beginning in 1993, more than 20,000 youths have graduated from DEFY.

More information about the DEFY program can be found at http://www.hq.navy.mil/defy. red ribbon icon

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