Bill Van Orman, Fort Drum Army Substance Abuse Program educator, gives a tour of the mock barracks room, where 10th Mountain Division (LI) officers and noncommissioned officers practice conducting an inspection for contraband during a drug awareness class Aug. 22 at the ASAP facility. The Fort Drum Army Substance Abuse Prevention Program staff is working with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division agents to provide this training that goes beyond the classroom. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum officials provide drug awareness training for 10th Mountain Division Soldiers
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Aug. 23, 2019) – The Fort Drum Army Substance Abuse Prevention Program staff is working with U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division agents to provide 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers with drug awareness training that goes beyond the classroom.
During the two-hour course on Aug. 22, CID agents briefed noncommissioned officers and officers on the latest drug statistics, including the most prevalent types of unregulated substances found in this area. They also covered the consequences of illicit drug use for service members and the procedures for conducting barracks inspections.
“Anyone who thinks that this couldn’t happen in their organization is wrong,” said CID Special Agent Dujuan Hunter. “It could happen to anyone, and it’s out there.”
Agents said that the perpetrators in most of their investigations are lower-enlisted Soldiers, although drug use it isn’t exclusive to any rank or branch of service.
Investigator Stephanie Orellana, Fort Drum CID drug suppression team, said that younger service members are more susceptible to peer pressure and bad influences that lead to drug use. Most often, it stems from problems at work or with family, and they turn to drugs to relieve stress.
The majority of cases involve marijuana, especially as more states begin legalizing it. Still, it is a banned substance for service members, Orellana said.
Hunter said that it is important to read product labels, because Soldiers have tested positive for drugs after using supplements they thought were safe.
“I’ve had situations where Soldiers have tested positive for cocaine off of pre-workout supplements,” he said. “Some of these off-the-shelf products contain things that Soldiers shouldn’t be taking.”
He said that products containing THC or CBD oil are becoming popular to the point where people are cooking with them.
“Stores openly sell CBD products to help with sleep or anxiety or other things,” Hunter said. “You have to be careful even going to cookouts, because you don’t know what people are cooking with. Ultimately, you are responsible for what you put in your body.”
Bill Van Orman, ASAP educator, reviewed the difference between a leader check and a health and welfare check in the barracks. He said that NCOs should have a greater presence in the barracks because that, in itself, helps to deter Soldiers from making poor decisions.
“If I know I’m being watched, then I’m less likely to do something I’m not supposed to do,” he said. “That’s why we have drug testing. It’s not just to catch them; it’s a deterrent for them not to do it.”
When conducting a leader check, the NCO or officer is only permitted to inspect items in plain view. They can question the Soldier about a particular item, or ask to open a drawer or cabinet, but that is discouraged. Hunter said if there is any suspicion of contraband present, then questioning a Soldier could impede any further investigation.
A health and welfare inspection should be pre-planned, and it cannot target any individual Soldier or be based on suspicion or rumor of illegal activity. Van Orman said that leaders should always coordinate with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate for legal advisement before proceeding with an inspection.
After reviewing the do’s and don’ts of barracks inspections, attendees toured a mock barracks room to practice what they learned and to see if they could find contraband items.
Van Orman said that most of the time, drug evidence is found in plain sight because the users have become too complacent or are comfortable that their privacy will stay intact.
But the barracks simulations contained several items of contraband that were cleverly hidden or disguised, which Van Orman said was based on actual drug cases.
During the inspection, Soldiers discovered stash containers – a hollowed-out book or a can of spaghetti and a beverage bottle with fake bottoms – where items can be stored. Van Orman showed them an ordinary-looking coloring marker that can turn into a smoke pipe.
“It’s the little things that you have to check,” he said. “Or something as simple as checking the trash. How many times do you see a trash can that is full and you tell a Soldier to empty it? They’re happy to do it, because maybe they’re getting rid of evidence they forgot was in there.”
Staff Sgt. Sean Broda, with 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, said that even though most of the attendees have conducted inspections before, this training made them more aware of what to look for and suggested better ways of handling their responsibilities.
“This was extremely well-organized and well-prepared, and I think everyone really got something out of it,” he said. “There has been some changes to the First Sergeants Barracks Program that are important for us to know. I think a lot of us not only learned what we can and cannot do during a leader check and a health and wellness inspection, but then actually having a practical exercise made it even better.”
While one group was practicing the inspection, Amanda Mason, ASAP Prevention Branch chief, showed the other Soldiers some of the other training aids that the facility uses to teach substance abuse prevention. A simple game of cornhole while wearing “alcohol goggles” was an exercise in futility as Soldiers were stymied by the effect of depth perception impairment.
At another station, one Soldier completed a maze puzzle in 28 seconds. Then, wearing a pair of THC goggles that mimics the effect of marijuana, he failed it.
“This is your brain on marijuana,” Mason said.
Some Soldiers left the building feeling a little groggy from that exercise but sobered by the knowledge that will help them maintain the discipline and readiness of their units. Van Orman said that the feedback solicited after each course has been positive.
“The question I always ask after each class is, ‘Was this beneficial?’ and the answer I always hear is ‘Yes,’” he said. “I think it’s an eye-opening class. First, they hear it directly from CID and what the agents are finding, and then they go into our mock barracks room and actually see some of those things. I think the combination of hearing it and then doing it hands-on is very helpful.”
To learn more about ASAP training and assistance, visit www.facebook.com/FortDrumASAP or call (315) 772-3301.