May 18, 2010

Virginia Guard Counter-Drug program holds annual training certification

Staff Reports

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia National Guard Counter-Drug program held its annual certification training April 19-22 at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area at Fort Pickett. Although the annual requirement is typically held in a conference or classroom setting, this year CD took to the woods in order to make the training more meaningful and memorable. It also served to foster camaraderie amongst the Soldiers and Airmen, who are spread throughout the state at military, educational, and law enforcement locations.

“The overall event was a breath of fresh air,” said Staff Sgt. James Long, Joint Substance Abuse Prevention Program assistant coordinator.  “It was nice to do a conference in a setting other than a conference room”

For Soldiers and Airman who work in a program that often finds them assigned to work as the sole military member at remote civilian law enforcement agencies or school systems, the venue was a good opportunity to build and strengthen connections.

“Overall, it was nice to see old friends and make new ones,” said 1st Sgt. Eddie Bonilla, CD aviation section crew chief.

The required training included pre-accident plan safety training and rehearsals, intelligence oversight training, privately owned vehicle safety training, Counter-Drug doctrinal training, as well as the annual urinalysis testing of all members of the Counter-Drug program.

The Virginia National Guard Counter-Drug program places Guardsmen in the community, conducting Drug Demand Reduction classes for schools and civic organizations, supporting law enforcement agencies with criminal analysts and technical support, providing prevention, treatment, and outreach services to Guardsmen and their families, managing the Joint Substance Abuse Program (internal drug testing), and providing aviation support to law enforcement agencies.

Each of these functional areas also provided professional development training allowing members from each functional area to cross-train in various aspects of the other functional areas. 

"The overview of each section's mission set allowed all CD members a better understanding of the challenges of each section," observed Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Marsh.

The Criminal Analysts section arranged for a Gang Intelligence and Awareness class put on by two investigators from the Henrico County Police Department Gang Unit. In addition, the Drug Demand Reduction section provided “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” certification training.  This program can be an individual mentoring or group education program that uses fishing to get children’s attention and then focuses them on the risks associated with drug use, coping strategies, and provides them an example of alternative outlets such as fishing. 

The Prevention, Treatment, and Outreach coordinator, Sgt. Danny Joyner, presented modules 1 and 2 of the Team Readiness training program that helps individuals and leaders identify negative stressors and behaviors while providing tools to manage those stressors to the assembled group. 

“We have an obligation to keep ourselves and our Airmen at peak readiness and this training helps us meet that obligation,” said Tech Sgt. Cynthia Waller, CD administrative NCO.

The CD program also took advantage of the opportunity to improve the program’s utilization of technology to increase efficiency. All members were provided with Defense Travel System training by the United States Property and Fiscal Office at the Fort Pickett Distance Learning Center so the command could transition to a digital travel authorization and voucher system.  All Soldiers were also provided with training on the evolving Full Time Support Management Control System, which is used to track CD resourcing, missions, and results at the state and national levels.

The highlight of technical training was provided by the Aviation and Criminal Analysts sections.  CD helicopters are kitted out with optics and infrared capabilities that can be down-linked to portable ground displays for law enforcement use for surveillance or tactical operations. This year CD members cross-trained on the downlink equipment while the aviation section flew practice sorties operating the airborne sensors. 

The majority of the personnel and equipment for the CD aviation section comes out of Detachment A of the 2nd of the 151st S&S Aviation Battalion, which was on annual training during the time period and graciously supported the CD training while meeting its own training goals.

Overall, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Wright, CD operations NCO and event NCOIC, was happy with the result.

“It was a good event, not just a check in the box,” he said. “We can build on this to make our skills cutting edge.” 

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Dolan mirrored the opinion of most personnel when he said, “I thought the training environment was great. It was nice to get away from the phone, the office, and typical workplace environments.” 

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