CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Zama Middle High School capped off its Red Ribbon Week with a military working dog demonstration here Tuesday as part of various events that encouraged a drug-free lifestyle.
Held every year, the weeklong celebration is the nation’s largest and longest-running drug-use prevention campaign that has reached millions of people around the world.
Students here had the opportunity to take an anti-drug pledge and attend a presentation by the Army Substance Abuse Program and school liaison office. Students also dressed in costumes, sports jerseys and the color red to get into the spirit of the week and show that they make positive choices in their lives.
“We want to remind the students consistently that drugs are not an option,” said Zyra Sanchez, a school counselor who helped organize the events. “There are other alternatives that students can do in living a healthy lifestyle.”
On the last day of the campaign, which began Oct. 23, Soldiers assigned to the 901st Military Working Dog Detachment demonstrated the skills of their dogs to students during their lunch breaks.
The dogs sniffed out narcotics hidden in a suitcase, displayed their agility in a short obstacle course, and then practiced apprehending a suspect, who was played by one of the Soldiers and then by the principal while wearing protective clothing.
Sgt. Taylor Reed, a MWD handler, said the mission of their dogs can be complex, ranging from using their strong sense of smell to alert troops to roadside bombs to locating a suspect in the dark.
“A working dog is a force multiplier, because they can find bad guys and they can also find bombs or drugs,” he said.
While drugs are not much of a problem on Camp Zama, Reed said the dogs can still deter any illicit drug activity from happening.
“Camp Zama is luckily a very safe place,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean drugs aren’t around here, so we do have drug dogs on this installation to be looking for somebody trying to smuggle drugs through the gate or hide it in a package.”
Marcus Childs, an eighth grader, said the demonstration helped drive home that there are consequences for those who decide to use drugs.
“They’re saying if you do drugs, you may get hurt at some point,” he said, “whether it’s by a dog when you’re trying to run away, or you do something while you’re on [drugs].”
Childs said he participated in many of the week’s activities and even volunteered to assist at a booth that encouraged students to sign the anti-drug pledge.
While some people may try drugs because of peer pressure, Childs said that can also be true to convince others not to try them.
“If a lot of people are doing something, then I feel that a lot of people will try to join in,” he said. “So, if a lot of people try to be happy and learn about [Red Ribbon Week], then a lot of people will try to be happy and learn about it with them.”
The campaign, with the theme this year of “Be Kind to Your Mind. Live Drug Free,” is a great way for students to spread awareness, Sanchez said, adding it also shows them that the school is there for them.
“We promote having students live a life where they enjoy it physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said. “We want to ensure that our students are aware that we care for them.”