Kaiserslautern MP dares to make a difference
April 7, 2011
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- As Sgt. Mark Arnett wraps up his tenure teaching kids about the effects of drugs and alcohol, he can look back knowing he made an impact on children's lives.
For the past two years, Arnett has taught the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in the Kaiserslautern Military Community's fours elementary schools.
"It's been great for me to see the difference DARE is making in kids' lives," Arnett said. "The light bulb goes on and the wheels are turning."
Since 1983, DARE has taught millions of students worldwide about the effects of alcohol and drugs. Each April, "National DARE Day" is commemorated in the United States by a presidential proclamation, community events and activities. This year, President Barrack Obama declared April 7 as National D.A.R.E. Day.
It's been a few weeks since Arnett, wrapped up his final class. Still, when kids see him in the community, they ask Arnett to come back.
"That's rewarding, to know that they learned and that it was a fun experience for them," Arnett said.
While at Fort Meyer, Va., Arnett shook hands with kids as "McGruff the Crime Dog." But he'd never been in front of a classroom. In becoming Kaiserslautern's DARE instructor, Arnett learned the subtleties of teaching.
"As a Soldier, you instruct your peers," Arnett said. "It's totally different in front of fifth graders, trying to get them to listen to you."
Department of Defense Dependents Schools students complete 10 lessons over several weeks, working from DARE planners, Arnett said. Weekly lessons often include acting out skits on peer pressure and watching videos about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
In Europe, where beer and wine are often part of the local culture, alcohol is easier to obtain at a younger age. Children living overseas know about that, Arnett said.
"We stress the impacts alcohol has on young bodies, the adverse effects that it can have," Arnett said. "Kids are pretty smart," Arnett said. "They know it's bad for you, just not how bad it can be."
What kids learn in DARE can have a ripple effect within their families. One Kaiserslautern fifth-grader recently brought her lessons home and helped her mother quit smoking, Arnett said.
Staffing a DARE officer for Kaiserslautern Military Community schools make sense, as police in military communities mirror the work of their civilian counterparts, said Master Sgt. Kenneth Pryor, the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern provost sergeant.
"It gives us an opportunity to have an officer go into the classroom, so the kids don't just see a police officer as a cop," Pryor said. "It humanizes the individual."
In February, Lt. Col. Kevin Hutchison, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, spoke at the graduation of Kaiserslautern Elementary School's class. He thanked Arnett for his efforts in making the DARE program successful in the KMC.
"He is the face of DARE in our community," Hutchison said.
Arnett departs Kaiserslautern soon for Fort Knox, Ky., where he will serve with the 1st Infantry Division. He'll now pass the reigns to Spc. Kathy Ogburn.
In less than four years as a military police officer, has already served on patrol at Fort Hood, Tex., and helped train local police in Afghanistan's Panjshir valley. She's excited about taking on a new challenge, she said.
"I've worked the road and I've deployed," Ogburn said. "Now, I get a chance to do something completely different."