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NEWS | Oct. 26, 2015

Wildcats hope hands-on training leads to better decision-making for local students

By Michael Mascari 81st Regional Support Command

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — The 81st Regional Support Command reached out to two local high schools’ JROTC programs and two Fort Jackson elementary schools as part of Red Ribbon Week.

“The students like this because it’s something different,” said Blythewood High School Senior Army JROTC instructor Charles White. “The hands-on activities are a good learning tool because the kids are up and moving around, not sitting through a lecture. When I discuss the program with parents of the kids who have participated, they talk about how their kids really enjoyed the drug and alcohol training.”

The program was founded in honor of Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Agency agent tortured and killed by a drug cartel in 1985. 

Camarena’s work as an agent led to the discovery of a multi-million dollar narcotics operation in Mexico.
Residents of Agent Camarena’s hometown wore red ribbons to honor him. Congressman Duncan Hunter, a teacher David Dhillon, and First Lady Nancy Reagan launched an anti-drug campaign using the ribbon as its symbol. 

The program focuses on awareness, advocacy and resources. Kent McMillian, 81st RSC Alcohol and Drug Control Officer, works with area schools, presenting educational programs with hands-on opportunities for the students. 

“It is a national campaign for drug and alcohol awareness education for school age children, but adults have participated in this program as well,” said McMillian. “The earlier they get the information and the longer they have to process the information, the higher the likelihood they’ll make better choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol.” 

The JROTC programs make a great target audience for the Army Reserve, since many of these students will become Citizen Soldiers, according to McMillian. The program featured hand-outs, a "Family Feud"-style game and two exercises for student participation. 

The hands on exercises were two inebriation simulators – the overwhelming student-favorites. Students put on goggles that distorted their vision the way excessive alcohol or drug consumption might impair them. They then had to walk a straight line. 

The second simulator involved driving a vehicle without the glasses, then with the goggles while others observed.

“It was very blurry, I thought I was walking a straight line until I took the googles off and I figured out I was nowhere near the line I was supposed to be walking on,” said Blythewood JRTOC student Jasmine Mills. 

Mills said the experience of losing an uncle to an alcohol-related cause, and the training she received through Red Ribbon week is an eye-opener. She hopes other students take the course and learn the information provided. 

“Before, I thought it was joke and I didn’t really take it seriously,” said Mills. “But now that I’ve experienced loss in my own family and to see through the simulators what the effects are firsthand, it will cause me to think harder about the decisions I make down the road.”