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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard substance abuse team offers new, interactive training for units

Minnesota National Guard Hastings, Minn- Substance abuse prevention in the Minnesota National Guard is taking a new approach with the help of a specially-trained team focused on education Company C, 834th Aviation Support Battalion in Hastings got to experience the full extent of the new training during a recent drill weekend

With about 23 Soldiers ranging in rank from private to captain, the class started out as most do Todd Lofquist, the prevention coordinator assigned to the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, was joined by the two other prevention coordinators for the state, Warren Anthony and Kirsten Johnson With a combined total of 60 years of military experience, they presented the training with a fresh but familiar approach

While most Soldiers associate mandatory prevention training with "death by PowerPoint," the new training went in a different direction By combining discussion time, slides from the Army's new substance abuse prevention education curriculum (Strong Choices), and hands-on activities, the prevention coordinators provided a fun and educational experience much different from what Soldiers have seen in the past

"I know what you're used to because I used to sit in these presentations, too," said Anthony, a retired master sergeant who worked closely with the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program prior to his retirement "I know you think you've heard it all I know you think death by PowerPoint means it's time to check your phone or take a nap, but I promise you we're doing something different I want to hear from you, and I want you to tell me if you don't agree"

Warren then went into the drunk-driving prevention segment armed with statistics, impactful visuals, interesting discussion points, and relevant personal stories

As the training moved into pre-packaged slides, Lofquist delivered the new Strong Choices curriculum in a personalized and tailored way that spoke to Soldiers individually Lofquist is a retired sergeant first class with knowledge gained from Desert Storm, experience as a helicopter mechanic and years of recruiting and marketing for the Minnesota National Guard His presentation offered humor and a well-researched approach to the material

"[Strong Choices] is a lot better than the old Army-style training," observed Capt Caleb Seelhoff, the company commander The program combines interesting videos, up-to-date statistics, and easy-to-remember guides to help Soldiers make better decisions in their substance use The prevention coordinators are trained to deliver this curriculum in an interesting and informative way, and the feedback has been positive in each of the modules

At the end of Strong Choices, with a half hour left in training time, the company participated in the hands-on scenarios Using Fatal Vision? goggles that simulate the distorted functionality experienced with drinking, Soldiers walked a straight line in a similar manner to what is done by an officer during a field sobriety test They also tested their impaired motor skills by tossing a ball back and forth while wearing the goggles and drove pedal carts through an obstacle course to see the effects of drinking on their ability to drive The entire session was both fun and cohesive for the unit, but also educational and served as a real wake-up call to members

The final component of the training was the after action review, administered by Kirsten Johnson Johnson came to the Minnesota National Guard after ten years as a medic in the Army Reserves With a Master's degree in public health, she brings the analytical and research-driven base to the training All of the feedback she collected about the training was positive

"This was some of the best mandatory training I think we've ever had," said Master Sgt Charles Johnson, "and not just the pedal carts and fun stuff, the classroom stuff was really great and engaging, too"

The Substance Abuse Prevention team is available for training to all Minnesota National Guard units over the next fiscal year They can be contacted through each major subordinate command to arrange a date and time for the training

September 15, 2014
by Minnesota National Guard Substance Abuse Program

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