The Utah ANG participates in counterdrug program at local schools

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lillian Harnden
  • 151st ARW/PA
As certified instructors of the Drug Demand Reduction program, eight members of the Utah Air National Guard's 169th Intelligence Squadron teach drug awareness to youth at local schools.

The National Guard Bureau sponsors this counterdrug program in every state.

"The Guard is involved because we're part of the community, and we have a concern for our community," said 1st Sgt. Jason Wiscott, the DDR administrator for the Utah National Guard. "Teachers at the schools have told me that they appreciate us coming in to teach the course, and that they feel like the students are more receptive to the message because it comes from a person in uniform."

The Utah ANG instructors are currently on annual 14-week rotations to teach one full day per week at three local middle schools, including Bountiful Junior High, Glendale Middle School and Nibley Middle School. As many as 130 students per day, in grades 6-8, are given the one-hour course as part of their health curriculum.

Using audiovisual information and an interactive teaching style, the DDR program explains the damaging effects of drugs in the body, teaches students how to say no, and dispels the myths students have about drugs.

Chief Master Sgt. Dandy Diddle, a DDR instructor with the 169th IS, estimates that 75-80 percent of students in his classrooms raise their hands when he asks them the question, "In the last 30 days, how many of you partake in alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, or know someone amongst your peers that has?"

Chief Diddle further explained that the students are always shocked when he teaches them that the reality is that, as a national average, only five percent of their age group partake in those activities.

"They might have the perception that everyone is doing it, but once they realize that is not true they don't feel like they have to do it," said Chief Diddle. "I think there is real value in making kids aware that they don't have to be on that bandwagon and do what 'everyone else' is doing."

The DDR program also focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle, and getting students to think of ways they can find "natural highs" which give even more satisfaction than chemical highs, said Chief Diddle.

"The kids love the climbing wall we bring in," said Chief Diddle. "If the kids can climb the wall, they can say no to drugs. Sometimes the wall looks intimidating to them, but with a little help from their peers who are down their cheering them on, they can make the climb and achieve a sense of accomplishment. That confidence can later help them to resist drugs when they are faced with that decision."