Health & Safety

May 3, 2012

SACO training prepares Marines to help others

Cpl. Shelby Shields
Desert Warrior Staff
Photo by  Cpl. Shelby Shields

Six station Marines participated in the Substance Abuse Control Officer’s training last week.

All SACO’s Marine Corps wide are required to attend 40 hours of training prior to assuming the position.

“For some it’s a full-time position, for others is a collateral duty,” said Virgil S. Tapispisan, station Drug Demand Reduction Program coordinator. “Regardless of their situation we train everyone the same.”

Training is held quarterly for all new SACO’s, but all current SACO’s are invited and encouraged to attend for a refresher.

“We always welcome them to come back to training,” said Tapispisan, who is in charge of making sure all station SACO’s are up-to-date on training. “Because things are always changing we meet up every other month to discuss our progress, issues each unit is facing and solutions for those issues.”

The week long course covers what it takes to be a SACO.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about what a SACO does,” Tapispisan added. “Many people think it’s only conducting urinalyses, but that’s really only about 20 percent of what they do.”

Other portions of the SACO duties are treatment for those Marines who do suffer from substance abuse issues, this accounts for about 60 percent of their work, and the other 20 percent goes toward prevention.

“Most of the SACO’s are recommended by their commanding officers for this position because of their expressed desire to help Marines,” said Tapispisan. “This training is so important because these Marines are entrusted with other Marines personal information and case files. Especially with urinalysis, every time a SACO collects a sample they are holding that Marines career in their hands.”

During the training oncoming SACO’s cover their duties and responsibilities, drug testing procedures, Battalion Alcohol Intervention Curriculum, treatment requirements and community resources like suicide prevention, health promotion, legal, victim advocacy and more.

“This group is very enthusiastic,” said Tapispisan. “Many of them have seen these issues within their families and friends and want to help their fellow Marines get out of or stay away from these situations. I like this kind of attitude, it makes for great SACO’s.”

For more information on resources available regarding substance abuse contact your unit substance abuse control officer or the Drug Demand Reduction Program at 928-269-2791.

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