News: Boots team with suits to reduce substance abuse
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PAPAGO PARK MILITARY RESERVATION, Ariz. – Each year more than 70,000 Americans die from alcohol abuse; each day more than 3,800 individuals under the age of 18 try their first cigarette and more than 4,300 use an illicit drug, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
With statistics such as these, it has been sought by communities nationwide, as well as President Obama’s administration, that counter-drug programs raise the bar and create more aggressive tactics to put an end to substance abuse.
More than 50 soldiers and airmen from California to Puerto Rico attended a course on Drug Demand Reduction, hosted by the National Guard Bureau DDR Coalition here, Aug. 8 - 26.
“This training is the baseline for DDR,” said Capt. Benjamin Bruening, the DDR administrator and a subject matter expert in the NGB Coalition. The Missouri-based Bruening said, “Guardmembers learn the basic fundamentals of counter-drug programs and configuring strategies on counteracting drug activity in their communities.”
For three weeks, soldiers and airmen learned methods of reaching out to their communities in an effort to counterattack the war on drugs in America.
“This training is about how to help the community, but that is the key, we help – not lead,” said Spc. Anica Jankowski, a member of the Michigan National Guard who has taken a special interest in improving the health and safety of her community. “Whatever the community decides on what issue needs to be addressed, I will be there ready to help find a resolution.”
The course, derived from the Regional Counter-drug Training Academy in Meridian, Miss., is split up into three week-long phases. Although service members do not necessarily need to take all three weeks at one time, some feel that getting it all done at once proves to be more effective.
“I’m knocking it out – all three weeks,” said Staff Sgt. Frankie Fuentes, a member of the New Mexico National Guard, who has also worked in counter-drug operations on the border with Mexico for the last six years. “I want to get back home as soon as possible and give back to my community.”
One thing that could be misconstrued is the exact scope of this training. Although, it is offered to service members by the NGB, the DDR program’s aim is to teach class attendees how to assist and advise, not lead, and it is strictly community-oriented.
“Our target is outside the Guard – we provide the foundation to effectively provide support to community leaders and groups in dealing with community problems,” Bruening said. “Our goal is to help students understand how to implement the training they receive here and act as a force multiplier for community programs.”
By the final phase, students are evaluated on their creation of a notional program, complete with proposed plans on how the program will be applied. Student team skills are also evaluated as they develop, assess, and present the proposed implementation of their community-specific program.
“This program is for people who feel strongly about helping their community and willing to listen and work with the community leaders,” Jankowski said. “You will work with a lot of different people, and even though each state may do things a little differently, it will open your eyes to things never considered.”
Soldiers and airmen interested in enrolling in the course should speak with their readiness or training non-commissioned officer to contact the NGB counter-drug program section and sign up at least three to four months in advance, as seats fill up quickly.
To learn more about the program, visit http://ngbcounterdrug.ng.mil/.