Garrison ASAP named best in Army 2009

Community members can probably recite them by heart: “DUI… it’s not worth it. Call a cab!” and “Choose your ride: Don’t Drink and Drive.”

These posters are located on every U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart installation. What may not be so well-known is the impact they, along with their creator, the garrison Army Substance Abuse Program, have on the community.

On Oct. 23, 2009, the Stuttgart garrison ASAP was awarded the 19th Annual Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Award in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C.

“We have been a model garrison” said Bala Fischer, alcohol and drug control officer for the USAG Stuttgart ASAP. “Now, this award is kind of an added feather [in our cap].”

This is the first time the garrison ASAP program (or any program within Installation Management Command-Europe) received the award.

Thanks to the posters, the ASAP’s  involvement in the community and the full support of the garrison commander, Col. Richard M. Pastore, garrison DUI incidents were cut by 40 percent in fiscal year 2008.

In addition, the Stuttgart military community became first among its peers to bring to light the recent prescription drug abuse trend.

In fact, addressing the prescription drug issue was one of the reasons why USAG Stuttgart’s ASAP was chosen for the drug awareness award over every other Army garrison ASAP, Fischer said.

“[Our] campaign against the use of prescription drugs was key,” Fischer added. “That is the trend; more and more people are using.”

The campaign, titled “Operation Smart Choice” and led by Tracy Herrera, former ASAP campaign and drug coordinator, emphasized that using drugs and alcohol are an individual’s choice.

The campaign included the first-ever Prescription Drug Abuse Forum, and school presentations for children on the right way to take medications.

“The earlier you start, you get the message in and then they remember,” said Herrera, now an ASAP counselor. “If you keep repeating it when they’re older, it helps them not to make that decision [to abuse prescription drugs]. A parent who talks to his or her child about the dangers of prescription drugs cuts that child’s chances of abusing prescription drugs by 50 percent.”

Substance abuse education is not only vital for the health of community members, Fischer added; it reduces the number of crimes committed against people and property.

“If you look at risk reduction data, it shows that most risky behaviors are committed under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” Fischer said.

Besides community outreach programs, the garrison ASAP office also provides prevention education, substance abuse counseling, drug testing and the Employee Assistance Program, which provides short-term counseling on any kind of issue for civilians, retirees and family members.

Fischer added that receiving ASAP service has no effect on security clearances, provided one successfully completes the recommendations.

“This is not a punitive program,” he said. “We’re here to help.”

The ASAP, in conjunction with Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Service and the garrison’s Department of Defense Dependent schools, also sponsors Red Ribbon Week each October, in which students submit banner ideas for promoting drug-free lifestyles.

“Now, we can cover the whole of Stuttgart with great slogan ideas against drug use from our school children; we have so many banners,” Fischer said, joking.

If the poster results are any indication, that’s not such a bad idea.