CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Oct. 23, 2018) -- Camp Zama's Army Substance Abuse program was recognized as recipients of the Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Award for their awareness and prevention efforts in the community throughout fiscal 2017.

ASAP representatives Rashonda Labrador and Christopher Cowan, along with the winners from the other military branches, received their awards Oct. 18 during a ceremony at the Pentagon. This was the Camp Zama ASAP's first time winning the award since it was established 28 years ago to promote community drug-awareness activities within Department of Defense communities.

"We were super excited and surprised when we heard we had won, and we couldn't believe it," said Labrador, ASAP manager. "We're such a small installation, and our ASAP is really just a team of four. I always say, we might be small, but we're mighty. That's how we approach everything we do."

Competing for the award meant putting together a nomination packet that detailed all the events and campaigns ASAP organized in fiscal 2017 that dealt with substance abuse awareness and prevention, Labrador said. One requirement was participating in Red Ribbon Week, an annual youth drug-prevention held at the end of October.

ASAP coordinated other events, including the Great American Smokeout, an anti-tobacco campaign; the National Drunk and Drugged Driving campaign; National Drug Facts Week, a "myth busting" campaign at Camp Zama's schools; the 101 Days of Summer campaign, which emphasized summer safety; as well as quarterly resilience seminars and weekly "Thrive Thursdays" events.

"We did a lot of community collaboration, and that was one of our biggest goals for the year," said Labrador. "Collaborating and bridging the gap with the community resources, and trying to increase our impact on the community by not dividing our audience, but actually coordinating efforts."

Labrador and her team learned in September that they had been selected as the winners for the Army and said it was an honor to be a part of the first ASAP team to earn the recognition for Camp Zama. She extended the credit, however, to a larger group outside just her office.

"It's this community's effort; we could not have done it without the community," said Labrador. "Some of the stats we looked at was the engagement and the utilization of our resources. We looked at how those things increased over the year because of the rapport that we built with the community."

Christopher Cowan, the ASAP drug training coordinator echoed his teammate's comments, saying the relationships his office has built throughout the community allowed them to reach out to several different units, organizations and commanders in order to make their campaigns successful.

"That's a part of our prevention goal, is getting out there and creating awareness among the Soldiers and families, and letting them know that they do have available resources out there, and that they have people that they can go to," said Cowan. "We're really actively involved in a lot of different areas, and I think the award speaks for itself."

Before she and Cowan flew to Washington to accept the award at the Pentagon, Labrador said the recognition was very rewarding for her and her teammates, but more importantly, it served as evidence that Camp Zama ASAP is taking care of its community.

"We go out and we do prevention work; that's a tough job, especially when people don't believe that they have any challenges when it comes to substance abuse," said Labrador. "A lot of times, we go out there and we campaign and we're setting up shop at the PX and people are like, 'Oh, substance abuse--not me!' But in the end, we are here, and all we want to do is just let people know that we're here whenever you need us."