News>Feature - Drug Demand Reduction Program keeps Holloman flowing clean
Pasquale Gaccione, 49th Medical Operations Squadron drug reduction program manager, explains proper urinalysis procedures to an Airman randomly selected for urinalysis at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 5. The goal of the drug reduction program is to provide education on why doing drugs is bad not only for Airmen’s careers but also for their bodies. The U.S. Air Force has a zero tolerance toward drug use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss/Released)
Testing bottles awaiting use are staged on a desk at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept 5. The testing bottles are not opened until moments before testing and are checked for any contaminants by the Airman being tested and the drug testing observer before official use. The goal of the drug reduction program is to provide education on why doing drugs is bad not only for Airmen’s careers but also for their bodies. The U.S. Air Force has a zero tolerance toward drug use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss/Released)
by Airman 1st Class Colin Cates
49th Wing Public Affairs
9/7/2012 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Airman "Joe Smith" walks into his office after being on leave for two weeks in Jamaica. A few minutes later, the unit's trusted agent, who is part of the Drug Demand Reduction Program, walks in the office and asks for Smith. The trusted agent hands Smith a letter that says he has been randomly selected to give a urine specimen. Smith rolls his eyes and says, "Random, yeah right."
Smith is about to see and experience first-hand the process of giving a specimen, and find out the truth about the program.
"The drug testing program is a seamless process," said Airman 1st Class Kyle Parris, 49th Mission Support Group knowledge operations manager who is on a month-long special duty assignment as an administrative support technician with the Drug Demand Reduction Program.
"The Airmen who are tested are picked by the drug testing computer program, which is a Department of Defense software system that was created for all the services," said Pat Gaccione, 49th Medical Operations Squadron, Drug Demand Reduction Program manager. "Each week, the military personnel flight sends me an updated roster, which I import to the database. If it's a testing day, the computer will randomly select those to be tested from the database."
Because the program is truly random, an Airman can be selected to test back-to-back days or even five times in two weeks.
"The software does not consider past selections when choosing names, though it does track selections for statistical purposes -- it is totally up to the computer," said Gaccione.
Although the selection process was explained to "Smith" and he understands all he needs to focus on is giving the specimen, he still doesn't understand why someone has to be there to watch him.
According to Gaccione, observers are there to watch urine leave the member's body to ensure the integrity of the collection.
"There are devices made just for the purpose of beating a drug test," said Gaccione.
After a specimen has been collected, it is inspected and packaged for shipment to the Air Force testing facility at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. There, each specimen bottle is tested for both illegal and prescription drugs. Prescription drugs must be taken within the time frame specified by the doctor and for what they were prescribed for.
"If an Airman takes a drug prescribed to them after the date specified, there is a possibility they may face administrative action for prescription drug misuse," said Gaccione. He added that Airmen should never take a prescription drug not prescribed to them.
"The Drug Demand Reduction Program at Holloman AFB is here to help Airmen understand that while they should not do drugs because they are illegal, they should also be knowledgeable from a prevention and education standpoint about why doing drugs is bad. Education is a key component of this program," said Gaccione.
"This program has taught me that if any Airmen had the idea of using an illegal substance, I would be able to reassure them that people can't get past the program," said Parris. "They might as well just walk up to their commander and say, 'I want out.'"
In the end, the Drug Demand Reduction Program is in place because the Air Force does not tolerate the illegal or improper use of drugs by Air Force personnel, even though some Airmen continue to test that policy by using illegal or banned substances.
"The use and misuse of drugs, both illegal and prescription, is incompatible with military service," said Gaccione. "The only way to beat this system is to not do drugs in the first place."