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Combating alcohol and substance abuse

By Command Sgt. Maj. Bernie L. Knight
U.S. Army Alaska Command Sergeant Major

  Command Sgt. Maj. Bernie L. Knight

Our Soldiers face unique challenges here in Alaska and on deployment – In order to meet those challenges they need to be fit, resilient and ready.


High-risk choices with alcohol and drugs compromise the readiness of our Soldiers and also affect their ability to live healthy, well-balanced lives.


Over the past few years, we've seen too many tragic incidents in which alcohol or drug abuse was a key factor. Domestic violence, child abuse, assaults, crimes against persons or property, negligent discharges of firearms, firearms incidents and accidents all tend to follow trends of alcohol abuse.


It has also been a factor in the majority of the 179 suicides the Army has suffered in the past calendar year. As former Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, once said, "The majority of suicides have two things in common, guns and alcohol, that's just the way it is."

In this time of force reductions and smaller budgets, alcohol-related incidents will end your military career more surely than ever. Soldiers involved in just two alcohol-related incidents in one calendar year will be processed for separation, according to current Army policy.


Getting help
A struggle with substance abuse doesn't have to end your career; however, you must recognize the problem and seek help. There are effective programs in U.S. Army Alaska – at JBER and Fort Wainwright – to combat drug and alcohol abuse.


The Confidential Alcohol Treatment and Education Program, or CATEP, at JBER, is designed to reduce the stigma associated with Soldiers of all ranks, from Private to General, asking for help with alcohol-related issues.

The program is only open to those who have not been command-referred for alcohol abuse, and who have not been involved in an alcohol or drug-related incident in the past 12 months.

CATEP offers counseling, group and individual, treatment, education and support during off-duty hours, on weekends and at locations separate from the regular command-directed ASAP. You can reach a CATEP counselor at 384-7368 or 384-7370; or visit them in Bldg. 1108, on the corners of Fawn and Tomahawk Streets.


Soldiers can also self-refer to the Army Substance Abuse Program, which has facilities at Fort Wainwright and JBER. This involves asking your chain of command to assist in referral to the clinical side of ASAP. Remember that having the courage to seek help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.


At Fort Wainwright, any Soldier can self refer to ASAP by calling the Clinical Appointment number at 361-6277 or 361-5975.


Fort Wainwright ASAP is located in Bldg. 4055 Gaffney Road at the corner of Tamarack and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.


At JBER you can reach ASAP at 384-7368 or 384-7370. The JBER ASAP facility is in Bldg. 1108, at the corner of Fawn and Tomahawk Streets and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Keep in mind that it is far better to voluntarily seek help than to be command-referred to ASAP through these means:


- Commander/Supervisor Identification – Command becomes aware or suspects that a Soldier has a problem with substance abuse and makes the referral.
- Biochemical Identification – Soldier receives a positive result from a urinalysis or a breath/blood alcohol test. (Automatic referral to the ASAP clinic)
- Medical Identification – Physician or health care provider detects substance abuse upon an examination. Medical personnel will notify the Soldier's commander.
- Investigation/Apprehension – Soldiers that are identified by military or civilian law enforcement as being involved in an alcohol and/or drug related incident will be referred to ASAP for counseling with 72 hours of the incident by the Soldiers' unit commander.


'Don't leave a Soldier behind'
Leaders at all levels – you play a crucial role in identifying alcohol and substance abuse problems among your Soldiers. It takes engaged leadership – knowing your Soldiers and knowing how they live. Visit your troops in the barracks – not when it's convenient, but at night, when they're most likely to be involved in high-risk behavior.

If you recognize the signs of alcohol or drug abuse in your buddy, talk to him or her about getting help. If that doesn't work – let your chain of command know. As difficult as it might sound, your action could save that Soldier's career – or life.


Battle buddies at every level – junior Soldiers, noncommissioned officers and officers – should not "leave a Soldier behind."


We can't afford to lose even one Soldier to an alcohol- or drug-related incident.



Arctic Warrior!
Arctic Tough!