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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Members of the Alaska National Guard Counterdrug Support Program joined multiple law enforcement agencies to promote a healthy and drug-free lifestyle to students in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough during Red Ribbon Week 2018, Oct. 23-31.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration annual Red Ribbon Campaign is the nation’s largest drug prevention effort that has touched the lives of millions of people around the world for over 30 years.
“The DEA’s National Red Ribbon Week 2018 theme is ‘Life is your journey, travel drug-free’,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joyce Dean, AKNG CDSP noncommissioned officer in charge. “The Alaska National Guard brings a baseline message of strong choices and our curriculum is rooted in evidence base best practices.”
Students were greeted with excitement and high fives from the AKNG CDSP team, complete with a robotic police dog and a 10-foot tall inflatable “Guard against drugs” troop, affectionately known as Sgt. Drug-Free, as they entered the school.
“We deliver a drug-free message with excitement because we are invested in ensuring a healthy and drug-free community,” said Lt. Kimberly Conkling, AKNG CDSP coordinator. “We care about the youth of our Alaskan communities, about empowering them to make healthy choices, and about decreasing the negative impacts of drugs in our state.”
The assembly paid homage to the origins of the campaign that took shape in response to the murder of DEA Agent Enrique (Kiki) Camarena. Angered parents and youth in communities across the country began annual celebrations and wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction caused by drugs in America.
“Our message centers around what Red Ribbon Week is, what a drug is, and what it does to your brain and body,” said Dean, who has been with the AKNG CDSP for almost two years. “We discuss healthy choices for physical and mental activities and showcase prevention tools.”
The prevention tools included inflating healthy and unhealthy pig lungs, a 5-foot fake cigarette with a list of up to 7,000 chemicals in cigarettes that can harm you, a jar of phlegm and tobacco teeth that all elicited looks of disgust on students’ faces.
“One of the things that we try to do with our prevention efforts is to delay the first use of any drug,” said Conkling. “By celebrating a drug-free lifestyle with the youngest kids, we may be encouraging a drug-free childhood, which often leads to a more healthy adulthood.”
“By being a part of DEA’s National Red Ribbon Week, we support one of our adjutant general’s line of efforts, which is “Engagement with Alaskan Communities,” said Dean.