May 12, 2011

Virginia Guard assists DEA National Take Back Inititative

Courtesy Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program

FAIRFAX, Va. — Four Soldiers from the 1173rd Transportation Company departed Martinsville, Va., May 10 in two 2.5 ton vehicles with trailers destined for Fairfax, Va., in support of the second Drug Enforcement Administration National Take Back Initiative.


Virginia National Guard Soldiers, DEA agents and plant workers off load pharmaceuticals for transfer to the incinerator. (Contributed photo)

NTBI seeks to remove excess pharmaceuticals from homes across the nation. There is a growing awareness that excess pharmaceuticals, both prescription and over the counter, are a significantly growing gateway to substance abuse, particularly for youth. In addition to the health dangers and negative societal impacts, families who attempt to remove the risk of excess pharmaceuticals often have no choice but to flush them or send them to the landfill. Neither option is good from an environmental perspective as we now have trace elements of pharmaceuticals showing up not only in waterways but also even in treated drinking water.

The vehicles stopped in Richmond overnight to pick up two additional Guardsmen and more than 9,500 pounds of excess pharmaceuticals collected from across the state by state and local agencies in cooperation with the DEA. This was a significant increase over the 5,000 pounds collected in Virginia in 2010 at the first NTBI event. 

A full load of excess pharmaceuticals in the back of a Virginia National Guard vehicle. (Contributed photo)

The Soldiers and a contingent of DEA agents then travelled to an incinerator in Fairfax where they offloaded and witnessed the destruction of the drugs. The trucks returned via Richmond on May 11, completing 1,214 incident-free miles in support of this mission.

While Counterdrug missions are mandated by Congress to have a drug nexus, they are also a valuable opportunity for service members to gain experience that enhances their military skill sets and utility. In this mission, Transportation Corps Soldiers gained valuable armored and unarmored, over-the-road, maintenance, and trailer towing/backing experience on roads ranging from rural to interstate to congested suburban. 


A team of Virginia National Guard Soldiers safely travelled 1,214 miles to transport over 9,500 pounds of excess pharmaceuticals to an incinerator in Fairfax, Va., for proper disposal. (Contributed photo)

Additionally, the Soldiers learned the traffic flow at a major industrial facility and worked in an interagency environment with contract facility personnel, a situation that Soldiers commonly must negotiate downrange today.

The Virginia National Guard Counterdrug program places Guardsmen in communities conducting Drug Demand Reduction classes for schools and civic organizations; supporting law enforcement agencies with criminal analysts, Ion scanning for drug residue on currency, and aviation support; providing Prevention, Treatment, and Outreach services to Guardsmen and family members; and manages the Joint Substance Abuse Program (drug testing).

One more NTBI event is tentatively scheduled for October 2011, after which time legislation facilitating the collection and disposal of excess pharmaceuticals will hopefully have created local opportunities for regular drug disposal.

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