The folly of drugs was the message of the day at the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Encampment on the Stratton Air National Guard Base last week.
That message, which was being espoused by the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, came packaged in the form of a rock wall, alcohol-simulating goggles, a team-building exercise and a close encounter with a helicopter.
The helicopter in particular was "very cool," but the anti-drug sentiment already resonates with members of the encampment, according to Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Andrea Parker.
Parker, 15, of Princetown said that kids who were motivated enough to join their local Civil Air Patrol are probably not the type of people who would be drawn to drugs. She added that the information gleaned at the encampment, and through other Civil Air Patrol experiences, did prepare the cadets to take the anti-drug message to other people.
"We can take the message to our community," Parker said. "We know what drugs can do."
Cadet Maj. Benjamin Tartter, 20, highlighted the goggles that simulated the effects of being drunk as an effective learning tool.
"We have them try to walk a straight line and they think they're walking a straight line, but when they take the goggles off they see the difference," he said.
Task Force Master Sgt. Marlene Frankovic said the unique events, especially the rock wall, are supposed to highlight the alternative ways to have fun without drugs. She said that they're reinforcing the concept that life already has enough things to do without putting illegal substances in your body.
And it was all a lot of fun for the cadets, who were highly engaged in the different activities.
At the rock wall, they cheered on whoever was up there, and they seemed awestruck by the helicopter that landed in the late morning.
The task force is composed of New York Army and Air National Guard members. It also does work with civilian coalitions, providing them with tools and support to combat the spread of drugs in the state.