CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Feb. 19, 2021) – A four-day course provided Soldiers here training on how to administer drug tests and alcohol screenings, and offered information on substance abuse prevention strategies and services, the installation’s Army Substance Abuse Program manager said.
Nine Soldiers were certified as unit prevention leaders, or UPLs, for their respective units after completing the ASAP-hosted course, held Feb. 8 through 11 at the Education Center here.
ASAP Manager Paul Howell, one of the instructors of the UPL course, said the Soldiers had to pass two exams at the end of the course in order to earn their certification. That certification will be valid for 18 months, after which the UPLs will need to take an annual, one-day refresher course to maintain their credentials, Howell said.
The Soldiers were very engaged and seemed to enjoy the material, Howell said, and despite being from different units, they were able to bond and assist each other during the class.
“We’ve got a really good group of participants in this class,” Howell said.
UPLs have to be in the rank of sergeant or above, and because candidates must also pass a comprehensive background check, Howell said commanders look for Soldiers who are going to be motivated and reliable in their role.
“We want to make sure that we have the right person for the right job,” Howell said. “Health and safety is always first and paramount in the service.”
Shannon Hutchinson, ASAP prevention coordinator and another instructor, said the course allows those qualified UPLs to return to their units and “be the eyes and ears for their commander” when it comes to keeping Soldiers vigilant and preventing substance abuse in their ranks.
Hutchinson said she tried to give the Soldiers the tools and the training they needed to be confident in their knowledge and be effective in their role as UPLs.
“I want [these Soldiers] to take away the importance of safeguarding their unit,” Hutchinson said.
Being a UPL is not something a majority of Soldiers are trained in, and it is not their primary mission after they are certified, Hutchinson said, so she is thankful for those Soldiers who take the course seriously and apply themselves.
“[The UPLs] are a representation of their unit and their commander,” said Hutchinson.
Staff Sgt. Arthur Yates, assigned to the 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, volunteered to attend the training because he said he wanted to “do something more” for his unit.
Yates said the instructors covered important UPL tasks, such as the strict process for conducting “urinalysis” drug testing, in a comprehensive and detailed way that gave him and the other Soldiers confidence in their ability to handle the tasks when they return to their units.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure our Soldiers are being safe,” Yates said.
Staff Sgt. Kristen Bennett, assigned to the 88th Military Police Battalion, said she was excited to attend the course because she had always wanted to be a UPL. She praised the instructors for their enthusiasm and said she and the other Soldiers tried to match their energy throughout the course.
Prior to attending the course, Bennett said she had never thought about all the complex details involved in conducting urinalysis testing. The training helped her understand why certain things needed to be done a certain way, she said.
“Now when I test Soldiers, I know what right looks like,” Bennett said.