Nov. 16, 2010

Adjutant General, NGB senior leaders get up close look at Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program 

By Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. — A group of senior leaders from the National Guard Bureau visited Sandston Nov. 4 for an up-close look at the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Program.

 

Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Marsh III, Counterdrug Aviation Section Chief, discusses the Counterdrug Program’s Aviation Section mission with Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Nov. 4 during a daylong visit to the Counterdrug Program.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, joined Brig. Gen Mark R. Johnson, deputy director of Domestic Operations and Force Development at NGB, Brig. Gen. Deborah S. Rose, General Officer Advisor to the Counterdrug Advisory Council, and Col. Bill Carle, chief of the Counterdrug Division at NGB, as they visited with Virginia Guard troops, examined their equipment and heard from education, community based organization, and law enforcement officials just how valuable the Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program is. 

“Gen. (Craig R.) McKinley [Chief, National Guard Bureau] said he wanted more general officers to see what this program is doing,” Carle said. “To do that, you can sit through briefings but there are times you need to get them out from their desks, out in the field, to see first-hand what exactly the folks are doing. That way they get a common understanding of the scope and specialty of this program and the relationships we’re building between the National Guard and these agencies. That’s critical and that’s what this program is really about.”

There were several reasons for the daylong visit, according to Lt. Col Charlton Dunn, coordinator for Virginia’s Counterdrug Program.

“First, we wanted to provide NGB senior leadership an understanding of the multifaceted nature of Counterdrug, its value to the community, and the unique state-level challenges in implementing the program,” he said. “Second, we wanted to provide the Adjutant General with an opportunity to gain an understanding of how his Counterdrug program operates, to meet supported and host agency leadership, and to foster a closer relationship between the Virginia National Guard and NGB as regards the Counterdrug program.

“Third, we wanted to provide the broad array of agencies and organizations we support the opportunity to voice their perspective on National Guard Counterdrug support to senior leadership at the state and national level.”

The visit was important to the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug program on many levels, according to Dunn. While the NGB J3 involvement will contribute to a more-informed senior leadership, the NGB Counterdrug involvement further strengthened the Virginia Guard program’s relationship with them.  

 

Brig. Gen. Deborah S. Rose, General Officer Advisor to the Counterdrug Advisory Council, learns of the capabilities of the Virginia Counterdrug Program's new UH-72 Lakota helicopter Nov. 4 in Sandston, Va. The Counterdrug Program’s Aviation Section utilizes helicopters to provide optical and infrared surveillance, body wire signal retransmission, and video downlink support to local, state, or federal drug investigations. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Meanwhile the visit from Long was not only a boost for morale, but it demonstrated his commitment to supporting the day to day Counterdrug mission in the Commonwealth, Dunn said. Long presented nine individual awards to Counterdrug program members and took advantage of the opportunity speak with them to learn more about the program and the people who make it work.

Another positive outcome of the event, according to Dunn, was the opportunity for Counterdrug members to come together to work as a military team. Since team members are dispersed across the Commonwealth, and many of them work alone at civilian agencies, working together as a military team built esprit-de-corps and re-instilled unit cohesion.

The Virginia Guard Counterdrug program places Army and Air troops in communities throughout the Commonwealth to conduct Drug Demand Reduction programs for schools and civic organizations. The program also supports law enforcement agencies with criminal analysts and aviation support, manages the Virginia National Guard internal drug testing program, and provides all hazard treatment referral services to Guardsmen and their families.

“We are a supporting effort at the local, state, and federal levels working both supply and demand sides of the drug crisis,” said Dunn. “We are a collaborative member of the Governor’s Office for Substance Abuse Prevention, the Governor’s Initiative Against Narcotics Trafficking, as well as the Attorney General’s Gang Reduction and Intervention Program and Prescription Drug Work Group.”

Drug Demand Reduction personnel provide purpose, direction, and motivation to youth, according to Dunn. They also educate parents, professionals, and citizens on the drug hazards facing youth today. Their tools include programs on gateway drugs, illicit drugs, gang awareness, and consequence awareness. They also use “Stay on Track” and “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs,” both nationally recognized programs, as well as life skills and teamwork building events. 

“We also provide ‘train the trainer programs’ to organizations who work with youth,” said 1st Sgt. Kenneth Muse, Counterdrug Drug Demand Reduction administrator. “Our goal is to empower our youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to make good decisions regarding drugs.”

Youth can be touched by the program from short, community events to comprehensive, 12-hour school programs, from individual mentorship to large classes. Last year DDR personnel reached more than 11,000 children supporting activities in 75 schools, civic agencies, and community-based organizations.

“We also supported multiple civilian, military, and high-risk youth summer camp programs,” Dunn said, “and provided operational, logistical, and marketing planning support to the DEA National Take Back Day, removing two and a half tons of excess pharmaceuticals from homes across the Commonwealth.”

 

A Virginia Guard Counterdrug program Soldier demonstrates how the organization can send and receive real-time video feed from various aerial platforms and cameras during a presentation to general officers and local law anforcement official Nov. 4 in Sandston. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The Counterdrug Program’s Aviation Section utilizes helicopters to provide optical and infrared surveillance, body wire signal retransmission, and video downlink support to local, state, or federal drug investigations. 

“We typically fly between 650 and 750 hours annually at no cost to the requesting agency,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Marsh III, Counterdrug Aviation Section chief. “Last year our aviation section trained and certified 111 law enforcement officials as spotters to increase inter-agency effectiveness.”

The aviation section supports the “Green Harvest” marijuana eradication program, which resulted in over 34,000 plants being confiscated in last year.
Criminal analysts in the program provide a military approach to analytical and technical case support, ranging from traditional link analysis to cutting edge social media exploitation, to ion scanning of seized money and evidence for excessive drug residue levels. 

Last year, the Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program provided support to the Virginia State Police, the Commonwealth’s Fusion Center, the Office of the Attorney General, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the I-95 corridor High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, as well as multiple state and local task forces.

“Last year, our criminal analysts and Aviation Section supported over 581 arrests and the seizure of over $125 million of narcotics, currency, and weapons,” Dunn said.

Meanwhile the Joint Substance Abuse Program office provides the necessary drug testing, training, and material resources to aid in the effort to deter and identify illegal drug use by Guardsmen. In Fiscal Year 2010, JSAP tested more than 9,100 Guardsmen, helping to identify Guardsmen for treatment, remove Guardsmen not fit to serve, and to deter future substance abuse. 

“Our Prevention, Treatment, and Outreach program provides treatment resources for substance abuse and other life challenges for both Guardsmen and family members,” said Sgt. Danny Joyner, Counterdrug prevention coordinator. “This program improves individual, family, and unit readiness, having provided 10 training events and referred 60 service and families members for treatment in 2010.”

Due to the program’s small size, its members cross-train in order to maximize their flexibility and effectiveness. While headquarters staff provides surge support for DDR and criminal analyst missions, criminal analysts serve as the ground component of our helicopter’s video downlink capability and aviators provide DDR services at static helicopter displays.

According to Dunn, the program injects $2 million dollars annually into the Commonwealth’s economy, funding 24 full-time positions as well as providing multiple short-term opportunities for traditional guardsmen to support specific events.

“The diversity of successful programs in the Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug program demonstrates the professionalism, flexibility, and community connectedness that are the hallmarks of our Commonwealth’s Guardsmen,” Dunn said.

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