If drinking too much is the disease, Marianne Campano believes having a fun alternative is the cure.
As the Army Substance Abuse Program prevention coordinator for U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Campano came up with “Warrior Pride Challenge,” a pilot program which offers free recreational activities to service members in ranks E-5 and below — the most at-risk group for alcohol-related incidents. Other free events are open to the entire community.
“The premise behind the campaign is that if you get folks involved in more [alcohol-free] activities during high-risk drinking times, [then] at other times too, they are less likely to make poor decisions,” she said.
So, at 9 a.m. on July 23 and Aug. 6, ASAP outfitted 18 service members with paintball equipment and sent them out into the Panzer Local Training Area to get their game on.
“It was nice to get away from Call of Duty and do the real thing,” said Pfc. Marc Papy, who is assigned to Special Operations Command Europe. Papy not only joined in a paintballing event, but volunteered to provide ideas for future events as part of a Warrior Pride working group.
“I got to see our ideas being put to use,” he said of paintballing. “I’m looking forward to seeing some of our other ideas we put out … like a barbecue.”
Warrior Pride activities already running through July and August included a Friday-night gaming session, and an early-morning PT triathlon, to deter participants from late night partying.
The events also show young enlisted service members that having a good time is not synonymous with getting drunk, Papy said.
“Most privates coming in don’t understand the difference between binge drinking … and just having a good time,” he said. “[Warrior Pride] teaches you there is a difference.”
The Warrior Pride Challenge is based on research conducted on American college campuses, which shows that engaging people ages 18-24 — the most “at risk” group for alcohol-related incidents — in fun events without alcohol is effective in reducing alcohol-related incidents, Campano said.
Warrior Pride Challenge gets its name from the Army’s Warrior Pride ethos, which states that drug and alcohol abuse are “incompatible with military service.”
“Our purpose is to reduce high risk behaviors, foster healthy habits, build community and reduce the negative incidents around alcohol,” Campano said.
“To me, really engaging people like that and bringing them together to do something fun and active goes beyond reducing risky behavior — it does boost morale,” she added.
This was especially true the morning of July 27, when 24 Soldiers took part in the first Warrior Pride PT Triathlon, which included a two-mile run, water jug carrying and laser target shooting at the Panzer Local Training Area.
Despite the heavy rain, participants not only enjoyed the competition, but asked for more in the future.
“It’s a good thing for Soldiers to get out and focus their energy toward something positive,” added Capt. Forrest Payne, of Headquarters, Headquarters Company for USAG Stuttgart, who came to cheer on his unit. “It builds esprit de corps and show the community actually cares.”
Perhaps most importantly, it gives service members a way to have fun without getting into trouble, said 1st Sgt. Bobby York of HHC.
“Anything we do to keep them out of the barracks is a positive thing,” he said. “Everything is right here for guys to stay active [and] stay engaged in the community.”
Upcoming Warrior Pride events include a paintball day Aug. 20, and a PT pentathlon Sept. 22.
For more information, visit the USAG Stuttgart Warrior Pride Challenge (SWPC) Facebook page, or call ASAP at 431-3233/2530/civ. 07031-15-3233/2530.