FALLS CHURCH, Va. --
Travis Air Force Base’s Drug Demand Reduction Program has won the Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Award for their continuous involvement in drug prevention efforts in the surrounding community.
Awarded to each Service branch, the award was established by the Department of Defense in 1990 to promote its support of outreach and prevention programs within the DoD community.
“It is not enough to just conduct regular drug testing of our Airmen,” says Timothy Finney, the Drug Demand Reduction Program manager at Travis Air Force Base - Calif. “It is important to embody this drug-free commitment by engaging with the community and being involved in the effort to keep our military community safe.”
The award is associated with Red Ribbon Week, which started as a way to commemorate the work of former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique Camarena, who was kidnapped and murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico in 1985. Soon after, the wearing of red ribbons became has become a symbol of commitment to being drug free.
The Air Force adopted this effort in the 1990’s by creating the Drug Demand Reduction Program. With the goal to improve awareness and the Air Force’s community outreach, the program aims at reducing drug use on and off base.
“For me it is a passion to be involved in the community,” said Finney. “We all might have known someone who has been impacted by drug use and it motivates us that much more to ensure that it does not happen to anyone else.”
This passion shows through in Travis Air Force Base’s commitment to their community. Finney, along with many Airmen at Travis, partnered with local schools and community centers to engage with the community to spread drug-free messaging.
“Considering the location of the base, there is a high drug threat,” said Finney. “Our Air Force families live in this community, so it is vital to keep them safe and protect our most vulnerable populations, our local youth, to resist drug use.”
Travis Air Force Base employs a multi-faceted approach that includes drug testing, mentoring, and events. Employees there work with community centers and schools to engage both children and their parents. The goal of these events and mentorship is to keep children away from drugs and educate parents on the dangers that are potentially out there.
“We want to make sure parents know what to look out for,” said Finney. “For example, synthetic marijuana has become more popular. Many parents do not know how dangerous it is, what it looks like, and how susceptible their kids are to it.”
By participating in several monthly events and activities, Airmen engage with their community and create a stronger front against drug usage. Airmen distribute drug awareness materials, play games with younger children, and quiz parents on drug awareness and reduction.
One notable event that Travis Air Force base recently participated in is a door-decorating contest with a community center where children decorated doors with different Red Ribbon Week drug-free themes. They then distributed prizes for the winning doors. This was a major event with over 2,500 children both on- and off-base participating.
Another way Airmen have become an integral part of the community has been through a mentorship program with children aged 9 to 13. Airmen and Children paired up and for help with homework as well as personal issues they might be dealing with.
Efforts like these have made Travis Air Force Base stand out and reaffirms the Air Force’s commitment to being drug free.
“Airmen take pride in connecting with the community, especially when it comes to keeping them safe,” says Finney. “Being recognized with this award serves as a reminder of that continued commitment.”