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DDRP takes Air Force award for second year

The Department Of Defense recognizes outstanding units during the 2018 annual Red Ribbon Week in the Hall of Heroes, in the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., Oct. 18, 2018.  (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Trevor Wiegel)

The Department Of Defense recognizes outstanding units during the 2018 annual Red Ribbon Week in the Hall of Heroes, in the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., Oct. 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Trevor Wiegel)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Timothy Finney has seen the toll drugs can take first hand. 


The 60th Air Mobility Wing Drug Demand Reduction Program manager at Travis Air Force Base, California, talks of family reunions with relatives missing due to death or imprisonment, including generations who are gone or a younger brother who spent decades behind bars.


Having lived the toll, it motivates Mr. Finney’s outlook toward his job, driving the sort of vision that earned Travis the Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Award for the Air Force for the second consecutive year. The award is given annually to the best drug demand reduction program for previous fiscal year accomplishments for each branch of service, the National Guard, the Defense Agencies and Field Activities.


Finney’s goal is to deliver information to empower people to make better choices, he said.


“I don’t want kids to have to go through what I saw my brother go through, my relatives and everything,” he said. “It’s real personal to me. It’s just the fact that I think back on when we were kids and it’s like, well, you know, they’re not here. They’re not here.”


Finney said one of the signature programs of his annual campaign is Red Ribbon Week, an annual drug awareness campaign that takes place in October. The event was inspired by the kidnapping, torture and murder of Drug Enforcement Agency agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena by drug traffickers in 1985. The wearing of red ribbons was adopted first by his home town as a symbol to be drug free and later, on a national level.


Other events throughout the year, including a civilian health fair, holiday parties, Kids Understanding Deployment Operations, and other base functions, are efforts to reach as many different demographics as possible. Finney tries to break through to people with information paired with giveaways or his “Wheel of Misfortune,” a game where locations on a wheel result in Finney asking the participant drug-related questions.


“Everybody wants to spin the wheel, so I try to make it interesting,” he said. “We have an array of different articles, information and giveaways.”


In addition to preventive measures, DDRP also oversees the selection and collection of drug testing for more than 7,000 members of the Team Travis community. For the award year, Finney said the office saw a 0.06 percent rate of untestable samples, the lowest rate in the past five years.


Though that’s a large component of the office’s activity, Finney said he tries to focus on prevention.


Reflecting on his own life and what prevented him from abusing drugs, Finney said his upbringing made a deep impression, but so, too, did basketball.


“I was a basketball junkie,” he said. “Everything else around me didn’t matter. That’s what I wanted to do.”


Participation in sports is something Finney encouraged earlier this decade when he ran the Drug Education for Youth camp, a drug abuse prevention and life skills program aimed at dependents ages 9 to 12. Finney said after winning the Secretary of Defense Community Drug Awareness Award for the second straight year, he’s working to bring DEFY back.

Measuring the impact of his efforts is harder to quantify, Finney said.


“You don’t know if it works,” he said. “You give them the knowledge. What they do with it is on them, but you tried.”


“Team Travis members like Mr. Finney are vital to ensuring the success of our mission,” said Col. Matthew Leard, 60th AMW vice commander. “We are exceptionally proud that the Air Force has recognized Mr. Finney two years in a row for the dedication and passion that he puts toward the prevention of drug abuse.”

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