Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce
AUSTIN, Texas – Red Ribbon week has grown since its inception in 1988 educating the public about the hazards of drug abuse. This year, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force stepped up their support to law enforcement agencies and community anti-drug coalitions to bring this message to communities around the state.
Drug free starts with me.
“Red Ribbon is about educating the community on drug awareness and the negative impact drugs have on individuals and society,” said Counterdrug civil operations noncommissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Celsa Reyes.
The Counterdrug task force started with teaching Girls Scouts in Liberty Hill, Texas with a rock wall, dunk tank and a helicopter, showcasing the various capabilities of the program.
“It was a challenging experience since it was the first time collaborating with Girl Scouts but a great opportunity to involve us and a great success,” said Reyes.
Over the next few weeks, task force members sponsored a Red Ribbon 5k Run, stood side-by-side with Drug Enforcement Administration agents for prescription drug Take Back Day, and went to 39 schools in 12 cities giving briefings and handing out red wrist bands as a reminder to stay drug free.
“Getting the message to youth across the nation on the danger of using drugs is a very important announcement that can save many lives,” said Master Sgt. Almera Rose, an assistant team leader for the Counterdrug program. “To reach out as many audience as possible, the message must be said repetitively in different ways. One way of doing that is through red ribbon week.”
A new initiative with the DEA was to fly an Army National Guard LUH-72 Lakota helicopter to various Austin-area schools and giving a short message from a DEA agent about what students needed to watch for as they grow up and are possibly subjected to illicit drugs.
“We hope our Texas communities understand the commitment and passion we, National Guard members, have towards drug prevention and education programs,” said Reyes. “Through the use of our helicopter, this event becomes memorable to our children and assists them in staying drug free.”
Each student body then raised their right hand and repeated a pledge to do well in school and stay drug free.
Even the school mascot in Dripping Springs, Texas made an appearance from the helicopter where children erupted in cheer as Timmy the Tiger stepped out with arms wide.
“It shows that the community cares,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kira Harris, the Counterdrug comptroller noncommissioned officer in charge and Dripping Springs native. “When we stepped off the helicopter, the kids screamed for Timmy the Tiger like he was a rock star.”
Red Ribbon Week is in honor of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena after his capture, torture and murder at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985. Task force members were a part of an event in which Mika Camarena, Enrique’s wife, spoke in Dallas, Texas, honoring her husband.
“Carrying on the legacy of “Kiki” Camarena is a constant reminder of how lucrative and dangerous the illegal drug business can be,” said Rose, “and if you get in their way, you will get hurt somehow.”
Before he joined the DEA, Camarena wanted to be part of the solution to take back communities and protect children from the criminals that would harm them for illicit profit.
“Red Ribbon events remind us that people like DEA special agent Enrique Camarena have laid their lives in the fight against drugs,” said Reyes.