FORT CARSON, Colo. —A Soldier wears “drunk” goggles and plays giant table-size Jenga at an information booth for the Army Substance Abuse Program. The ASAP team won the 2019 Secretary of Defense’s Community Drug Awareness Award. (Courtesy photo)
By Aleah M. Castrejon, Mountaineer editor
FORT CARSON, Colo. —Red Ribbon week began in 1990 when the DOD joined in a national effort to encourage Soldiers and community members to remain drug free by creating an award program, which it issues to each service’s military installation or program with the best anti-drug program. Each year, one winner is selected from each service to receive the Secretary of Defense’s Community Drug Awareness Award, and this year the winner was Fort Carson’s Army Substance Abuse Program.
This year marks the 29th annual award and the Fort Carson Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) did not disappoint with the number of events it put on during the year.
“(Winning the award) validates the hard work, dedication and effort that we’re putting into the community (and it) is definitely paying off,” said Anthony McCollin, prevention chief, Army Substance Abuse Program.
This is the second time Fort Carson won the award, the first being in 2017, and William Lana, manager, ASAP, said his team of 14 people worked together.
“It’s not possible without the team,” Lana said. “They are creative, they’re innovative, they’re dedicated, they don’t call out sick. They want to come here and do this job because they know the importance of it, and they’re incredibly good at it.”
The ASAP staff worked with Pikes Peak DUI Task Force, Fountain Valley Communities That Care and other agencies. The various events the team held included Summer Sense (ASAP campaign); Fountain Fort Carson High School Mock DUI Crash; various drug and alcohol training sessions for units; Drunk and Drugged Driving Month; suicide prevention; various classes, campaigns and briefings, and much more.
Lana said after looking at the award compilation, he was astonished at what the team had accomplished in just one year.
But it hasn’t always been an easy feat, the ASAP team tried for many years to host its own events but found it had little participation. The staff had to think outside the box and find ways to insert what they had to offer.
“There are huge events that happen here on Fort Carson, the (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) hosts them all the time,” Lana said. “We have worked our way into those events.”
The DFMWR events served as a way to reach out to the Soldiers, Family members and retirees through playing games and information tables. Additionally, the two entities work as a team, and the DFMWR staff will call the ASAP team and make sure they know about upcoming events.
“That’s been our success lately, is integrating with the events that are already existing,” Lana said.
The team doesn’t stop at reaching Fort Carson members, they strive to spread the knowledge as far as it can go among the community members, McCollin said.
“It’s not so much an ASAP thing, it’s a community thing,” he said. “The community wants the ASAP staff to attend their events to provide the resources to be more effective.”
When thinking about how much the military community on post affects the external community, the staff members at ASAP have learned to work together, ensuring the widespread knowledge. Drive Smart Colorado and ASAP staff work together by attending each other’s events, as well, guaranteeing both programs’ success.
With so many members of the military living beyond the gates of Fort Carson, McCollin said it’s important to understand the program stretches beyond the gates and impacts the entire community.
“We teach choices, when it comes to drugs and alcohol and the choices we make, that’s a community impact,” McCollin said.
With the various generations and all of the new temptations, the team is constantly trying to keep up and remain current with the changing times to reach the community. They have some creative ideas brewing, too.
“You just never know what another installation is going to do,” Lana said. “I actually monitor (the other installations’) Facebook pages, and I’m seeing what they do and taking their ideas, and I am hoping they are monitoring ours and using our ideas because it’s all about sharing.”
The team recently introduced a giant Jenga block game in an effort to connect with the community and to share stories, which are etched on the blocks.
“We usually have them put on the DUI simulator goggles so it makes it a little harder to pull those blocks out, but now we’ve added the emotional intent,” Lana said. “So, it’s more than just playing a game now it’s really got a message that it sells when people walk up to the table.”
McCollin said people can submit their personal stories to be added to the wooden blocks. So when people read them at the information booths, they will feel the emotional connection to someone who lost a loved one due to drinking and driving or drugs.
In addition to the giant wood blocks, the team is cooking up some new ideas, and McCollin said to keep an eye on theASAP Facebook page.
“It’s a Fort Carson Mountain Post Living and community effort to be able to take care of each other,” McCollin said. “This award validates the collaboration and efforts of everybody. It’s more of a community award.”
The team plans to take the award next year and has many ideas in store for the coming year. Both Lana and McCollin agreed the staff will continue to go above and beyond to care for the Soldiers and community members.
“We are here for commanders, we’re here for Soldiers,” McCollin said. “I know a lot of us give out our personal cell phones because a lot of times — the questions commanders have — happen after duty hours, and what we don’t want them to do is make a decision that could jeopardize the direction they are going. So we are available.”
Contact the ASAP office at 526-8407 for more information.