Substance abuse manager focuses on serving others

By Rebecca SalleeSeptember 6, 2022

Wanda Gilbert
Wanda Gilbert (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

The new division chief of the Army’s Substance Abuse Program at Redstone Arsenal said the work her organization and its affiliates do can be summed up in a word: relationships.

Wanda Gilbert of Athens said her role and those of her associates at the Missile Command Surgeon Office, Army Community Service, Fox Army Health Center, Religious Affairs Office and other wellness programs on post creates a partnership intended to serve as a welcoming red carpet to people in need.

“It is all about connections and relationships,” Gilbert said. “We all have that same common goal, pushing wellness and resiliency and advocating for people.”

Gilbert received a bachelor’s in social work from the University of North Alabama and a master’s in the same subject at Alabama A&M University. She began working at Redstone Arsenal as an undergraduate student, but the Army was in her blood long before that.

Her parents are retired Maj. Eugene English, the first African-American provost marshal at Redstone Arsenal, and his wife Kathy, who recently retired after 43 years of civil service to the Garrison.

Gilbert began her first full-time job at the Arsenal in 2013 as a prevention/suicide prevention program coordinator for the ASAP program, a position she held for about five years.

“I took the lead in Army substance abuse prevention campaigns for the installation,” she said.

In 2014, Gilbert introduced Redstone to the “Save a Life Tour,” featuring drunk-driving simulators. She also visited local schools and traveled to various organizations with presentations on such topics as suicide prevention, substance abuse, resiliency and wellness. But it was after those presentations, she recalled, where much of her “work” took place.

“People would say, ‘I just want to talk to you,’” she said. “People were drawn to my spirit.”

In 2018, she moved to a new position in ASAP as program coordinator for the Employee Assistance Program, a position she held until she was named ASAP division chief in November 2021.

“We really want to be a stable support system to the workforce and the families that are connected with this installation,” she said. “We are all humans. We are all connected.”

In her current role, Gilbert continues to listen, console, and offer support in her daily duties, which entails much more than the organization’s name suggests.

“Our name is deceiving,” she said. “We don’t just do substance abuse. We are so much more.”

The program offers work-life balance and wellness services, prevention education, and short-term resolution counseling through the Employee Assistance Program, Prevention Education Program and the Ready and Resilient Program.

In the latter, representatives of all of Redstone’s tenant organizations and service providers meet monthly to discuss installation wellness concerns, trends and needs – and how to address them collectively.

Providing service to others is ingrained in her through the example of her father, who was up for promotion to colonel when he left the Army to pursue work as a pastor.

Outside of work, Gilbert dedicates most of her time to her daughter Kennedy, 13, and son Walker, 6.

She is also active in the Little Elk Missionary Baptist Church in Athens, where her father is pastor.

Those eligible for ASAP services include DOD civilians, military and DOD civilian retirees, and active-duty military members and their families.

For more information about Army Substance Abuse Program services issues, contact the Employee Assistance Program coordinator at building 3466 on Snooper Road, or call 316-6098.