ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force relies on multiple agencies to ensure the safety and well-being of its members and the citizens it protects.
Security forces and firefighters are usually what one would picture, but one unsung hero is the Drug Demand Reduction office, which ensures those airmen and civilians are sober and fit for duty.
DDR is the Air Force’s line of defense against the use of illegal drugs and abuse of prescribed drugs as well as alcohol. Through random selection for military members, screening of all civilians and mandatory testing in some cases, DDR’s mission is to deter, detect and educate the public.
“Although it hasn’t been around since the beginning, DDR has been around for more than 30 years due to the popularity of marijuana use in the 1970’s without being checked,” said Chris Baumgardener, 97th Wing Staff Agency DDR program manager. “We’re here to maintain good order and discipline through a drug free workforce. It comes down to safety concerns. You don’t want someone repairing your equipment or flying a plane under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If they’re not being tested that could become a problem.”
In order to select airmen and civilians for urinalysis, DDR relies on a random, unbiased system.
“We have a stand-alone computer that we check every day and it tells us whether we’re testing that day, civilian or military, and who is selected,” said Tech. Sgt. Angela Gaulden, 97th Wing Staff Agency drug testing program administration manager. “People don’t believe us, but it really is random.”
By the end of each year DDR will administer 2,129 tests.
Although primary mission is testing, that’s not DDR’s sole purpose.
“We do a lot of local outreach programs with the schools and the youth center on base,” Baumgardener said. “October 24-28 is Red Ribbon Week and we will visit 14 schools and about 5,000 kids. We take volunteers from the base and will go talk to the kids about the effects of drugs and alcohol. We also send out monthly newsletters to the first sergeants about certain drugs to help keep people educated.”
And keeping people educated is key, because it could help save careers.
“Most of the tests that come back positive are for prescription drugs,” Gaulden said. “A lot of people don’t realize that prescriptions expire usually after 30 days and they must stop taking them. And then there’s some people that will just take others prescriptions and that’s obviously not allowed. So only take your own medicine and check the dates whether you get it on or off base.”
Whether it’s administering tests or helping educate the public, DDR staff member are working hard every day to keep the Air Force and the surrounding community drug and alcohol abuse free.
Reach Senior Airman Nathan Clark at 580-481-7700.