By Spc. Dalinda Hanna, 41st Fires Bde. PAOJune 28, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Leaders from throughout the 41st Fires Brigade attended a risk reduction and health promotion meeting to discuss Soldiers' mental health and ways to prevent incidents in the 41st Fires Bde. conference room, June 22.
Subject matter experts from the department of public safety, special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and health specialists spoke about drug trafficking, various gangs in the area, and Soldier advocacy.
Edwin Ballarta, a Department of Public Safety specialist, spoke about border drug trafficking and presented a video about ways drugs are coming to the United States and prevention.
"There are 1,254 miles of border to protect and we are only stopping six to seven percent of the drugs coming through," said Ballarta. "It is a $25 billion industry with money going back to Mexico to fund the production of more drugs. Seventy-eight percent of drugs are coming by water, so DPS now has three boats with machine guns to offer more border protection."
Along with drug trafficking, gangs have been an ongoing problem for the military and the United States.
Special Agent Samantha Mikeska, a special agent and a Mexican gang specialist for the El Paso FBI, spoke of each gang specialties and provided examples of gang related tattoos to look for.
"A lot of people think that the military does not have a gang problem, but we do because members sometimes join the military for a few years to learn tactics to help the gang," said Mikeska. "Gang members understand counter signals, conduct counter surveillance, and know how clear a house and ambush, so it is important to stay one step ahead of them. There is a lot of money at stake so they can afford the best equipment."
Along with what to gang paraphernalia and signs to look for, Soldier advocacy was also discussed.
Chuck Luther, the Soldier advocacy specialist for III Corps, spoke about how to help Soldiers when they get into trouble or have personal issues affecting them.
"It is important for leaders to listen to their Soldiers and understand what they are going through," said Luther. "Working closely with non-commissioned officers can make a difference because they are the ones who notice attitude changes and can give insight on any problems."
The speakers gave important insight on how leaders can assist Soldiers and understand the signs of problems. Health and wellness has always been and will continue to be first priority to the Rail Gunner leaders.