FORT SILL, Okla. -- Red Ribbon Week is a national emphasis to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other substances, and encourage a drug-free lifestyle.

The Red Ribbon campaign was established to commemorate the life of Kiki Camerena, a Drug Enforcement Agency agent, who was brutally murdered at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985.

Camerena, a former Marine and police officer, served with the DEA for more than 10 years, fighting drug trafficking and violence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Congress proclaimed the annual Red Ribbon campaign to take place during the last week of October.

This year the dates are Oct. 23-31; the Fort Sill Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) is joining other Army posts and millions of people nationwide to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, and to encourage prevention, early intervention and treatment services. Young people are especially vulnerable to the influences of alcohol, drugs and other substances.

"Our youth are our most important asset. Therefore, we will do everything in our power to prevent the scourge of drug use," said RaShonda Labrador, Fort Sill ASAP counselor.

Law enforcement officials are also focusing on the growing problem of underage teen drinking, which is often the first step toward drug and substance abuse. More than 6,000 people were killed last year in the United States as a result of underage drinking, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

MADD studies have shown teens who drink alcohol before age 21 are more likely to abuse alcohol as adults and become the next generation of drunk drivers. Many of these young people might bring their drinking problems with them when they join the military.

Alcohol and drug abuse, both legal and illegal, impacts society on all levels, and the Army is not immune to these problems. ASAP works hard to provide counseling and awareness programs, both on unit levels and throughout the Fort Sill Garrison. Commanders should understand Soldiers' drug and alcohol use has the potential to adversely affect their command, and they are empowered to focus on positive prevention measures.

To do this, commanders should ensure Soldiers receive at least four hours of training on the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol on themselves and their unit. When education and deterrent efforts fail, testing is used against high-risk behavior. Soldiers who test positive are promptly referred to ASAP for proper assessment and treatment, according to Janice Carter, ASAP risk reduction program coordinator.

Everyone in the Fort Sill community should make a pledge during Red Ribbon week to do whatever they can to stop alcohol and drug abuse. Abuse of any substance affects Soldiers' health, their being fit to fight, and it endangers not only their battle buddies, but also the entire unit.

If you or someone you know is in crisis because of substance abuse or other health issues call ASAP at 442-4205 or a mental health professional at Reynolds Army Community Hospital at 558-2800.