Program promotes drug-free future

by Airman 1st Class Scott Saldukas
435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

One KMC program specializes in providing youths the tools needed to avoid bad life choices while also allowing them to have a good time and create lasting friendships – the Drug Education for Youth program.

“The DEFY program affords kids the opportunity to learn necessary life skills to be successful in all they do,” said Col. Don Bacon, 435th Air Base Wing commander. “The program does not only focus solely on drug education, but also educates on gang resistance, nutrition and leadership skills.”

DEFY benefits the community by building self-esteem that counters negative peer pressure, giving students the power to lead peers in the right direction, which ultimately reduces drug usage and gang affiliation within the community, the colonel said.

The program was reintroduced to the KMC in 2007 and is available to family members ages 9 to 12 of all branches of military, Department of Defense civilians and ID cardholders.

While there are only a small number of cases of vandalism and drug use in teens, we get no joy in disciplining them, Colonel Bacon said.

“Our hope is DEFY will prevent some of these situations from occurring and that our youth will flourish in the KMC and help against adolescent crimes,” he said.
The program consists of two phases: Phase one focuses on teaching the youth hard skills in leadership, team building, conflict resolution goal setting and increasing self-confidence and part two includes leadership camps, which provides focused, quality training time while still permitting a relaxed but organized and memorable experience, said Alex Tremble, Ramstein’s Drug Demand Reduction Program manager.

The second phase also offers a mentoring program, which aims at reinforcing skills,
techniques and procedures taught at camp.
“A 10-month mentoring program during the school year in which DEFY youths are matched with an adult mentor team throughout the school year is a big part of the program,” Mr. Tremble said.

In phase two, parents are encouraged to become involved in supporting thier child’s commitment to a drug-free lifestyle.

“Each DEFY adult is responsible for ensuring that all DEFY graduates receive the necessary support and encouragement,” said Mr. Tremble, adding that they must be well versed in youth programs, requirements, support facilities and placement opportunities within their communities.

The final step of the program is outplacement, which ensures the youth stay engaged in the community.

“Overall, I hope that students will build strong relationships with their DEFY peers, mentor and community partners, utilize the skills learned to make healthy life choices and become role models amongst their peers,” Colonel Bacon said.