NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS — As they do every fall, many of Civil Air Patrol’s more than 61,000 members are promoting healthy, drug-free lifestyles during their nationwide observance of Red Ribbon Week.
The oldest, largest drug prevention campaign in the U.S., Red Ribbon Week is observed across America Oct. 23-31. This year’s national campaign theme is “The Best Me is Drug Free.”
Throughout the week, CAP wings are encouraging their officers and cadets to show support for a drug-free America by wearing and distributing red ribbons emblazoned with the slogan “Follow Your Dream & Stay Clean” — submitted as the winning entry by a New Mexico Wing cadet, Cadet Tech. Sgt. Spencer Graham of the Thunderbird Composite Squadron, in a nationwide contest last year.
“We normally give out over 200,000 ribbons for all of the volunteers to use,” said Margaret Probst, program assistant for the drug demand reduction program at National Headquarters.
Members are also conducting educational programs at schools in their communities. Using the DDR program’s Red Ribbon Leadership Academy curriculum, officers and cadets speak out against drug use and share leadership lessons with local middle school students.
“We have leaders who are chosen from each of the wings and units. Their job is to promote a drug-free message to cadets,” said Probst, whose office provides many of the materials for community outreach efforts across CAP.
Books, pamphlets, pens, pencils and bracelets from CAP serve as a reminder to youth that “drugs are bad,” she said. “You never know when they’re going to look at that message and it hits home.”
Capt. Mary Story, Maine Wing drug demand reduction administrator, said, “We’ve got to get the truth about drugs out to young people.”
Currently, 48 CAP wings are active in the program, with 468 squadrons involved.
The U.S. Air Force and CAP became involved with Red Ribbon Week in 1994 as a way to improve the lives of service members’ families and children. CAP, as the Air Force auxiliary, has since expanded its role to include a year-round drug demand reduction Program with three major elements – education, training and community outreach. Each element is designed to bring an anti-drug message to the community, students throughout the nation and CAP members.
The origins of Red Ribbon Week date back nearly three decades to a local effort in Imperial Valley, Calif., to honor the memory of former resident Enrique Camarena, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent slain in March 1985 in Mexico. Members of Camarena Clubs began wearing red ribbons in the slain agent's memory. In 1988, Congress proclaimed the final week of October as “Red Ribbon Week for a Drug-Free America.”
Red Ribbon Week has since grown to be the nation’s best-known drug prevention program. Participants annually include schools, businesses, government, military, service organizations, law enforcement, religious institutions, adults and youth who wear the red ribbon to show their support for the campaign.