By OC Chad Carlson
South Dakota National Guard Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The South Dakota National Guard’s Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) program was awarded the Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Award at the Pentagon Hall of Hero’s in Washington, D.C. Friday, October 22.
The award recognizes the best drug demand reduction program with each Service, the National Guard, and Defense Agencies in an effort to promote its support of outreach and prevention programs within its communities.
The SDNG Counterdrug program started in 1996, as a one Soldier operation, with the mission of teaching the negative effects of bad choices and decisions, tobacco use, alcohol use, marijuana use and meth use. The program has since grown to five Soldiers, placed throughout the state, to help focus on the rural population east of the Missouri River.
“This is a wonderful honor for the DDR,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kristi Palmer, DDR Noncommissioned officer in charge. “We have a small staff that covers the entire state, and receiving this award is a great way to validate that we are making a difference in South Dakota.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of our Drug Demand Reduction team,” said Maj. Robert Dejong, Counter Drug Coordinator for the SDNG. “They’ve done a marvelous job of getting to as many schools as possible and spreading the drug-free life style message.”
In 2009, the DDR presented Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program Training (ADAPT) to 75 different schools which allowed the staff to reach more than 4500 students in 5th-9th grades.
“It is clear that the South Dakota National Guard Counterdrug Program has implemented many activities that enable the program to help keep our young children drug and alcohol free,” said Dejong. “From the numerous activities during Red Ribbon Week to the awards given to our program for these efforts, to the follow-up efforts of youth rallies to the coalition meetings that keep our unique leadership on the forefront.
“Although awards give some meaning for our efforts with the students, the lasting award comes from the smile on the faces of the youth, showing a Soldier or Airman made a difference.”