By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsJuly 22, 2008
Military youth, from all branches of service, get lowdown on drugs while enjoying multi-activitiesHICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adrien Allen from the USS Chafey sat in a small raft offshore here, July 11, shouting words of distress to a small group of children on the beach. The children located a rope, tied a knot and cast the rope out to sea.As the rope landed within reach of Allen, she grabbed on tightly as all students worked together to pull her ashore. This exercise, called "Lost in the Pacific," was one of many obstacles students overcame during the Drug Education for Youth (DEFY) program. The exercise taught team building and problem-solving skills to students. DEFY is a self-esteem building program that provides children with the tools to resist drugs, gangs and alcohol. It focuses on building wholesome self-images and setting goals, as well as teaching students to resist peer pressure. "The program involves so much more than drug education," said program leader, Petty Officer 1st Class LaTasha Jones, a yeoman at U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). "We teach them how to resolve conflicts and provide them with the education they need to say 'no' to certain behaviors and make healthy decisions. We teach positive life skills to create positive citizens," she said. "I've learned how to work together with my team and help each other," said 11-year-old Army family member Deija Chiles. "I've made a lot of loyal friends here." "We learn a lot about communication," said 11-year-old Army family member Isiaha Warner. "We learn about drugs and how to resist them, and help other people say no to them." Drug Demand Reduction Task Force (DDRTF) initially developed the nationwide DEFY program in 1992. The local chapter of DEFY, sponsored by PACOM, started three years ago at Hickam Air Force Base to bring children from all branches of the service together for a fun and educational experience. Military family members, ages 9 to 12, participated in the free, 10-day program to build skills and learn an array of information regarding drugs and substance abuse. "I teach Soldiers all the time about leadership and teamwork," said DEFY volunteer Staff Sgt. Clayton Jones, PACOM. "It's even harder to teach the kids, but this information will pay off later. This is my way of giving back to the future generation of leaders." Starting in August, children may join Phase 2 of the program and attend the camp one Saturday each month to partake in activities such as swimming, hiking, a ropes course challenge and canoeing. The prevention program is the catalyst for increasing community participation and commitment to youth - particularly in the Army with its Army Family Covenant. The DEFY-structured curriculum offers education, skill development and physical fitness. The Covenant promises to provide "families a strong, supportive environment where they can thrive" and ensure excellence in schools and youth services.