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BASIC program addresses alcohol abuse, prevention

21 Jan 2011 | Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

When a Saturday night cocktail turns into a early morning Monday beer, Marine Corps and Navy small unit leaders, usually noncommissioned officers, are the first to notice.

In order to fight alcohol abuse all throughout the ranks and not just in the First Sergeant’s office, the Building Alcohol Skills Intervention Curriculum program was developed to give small unit leaders the skills and knowledge to teach their Marines about responsibilities and good decision-making skills associated with alcohol.

“NCOs need to step up to the plate and take the handle on this,” said Billy Smith, an alcohol abuse prevention specialist with the Combat Center’s Substance Abuse Counseling Center.

The program teaches Marines and sailors how to assess their own drinking habits, as well as peers and subordinates, in an effort to spread accountability throughout the ranks.

Another goal of the BASIC program is to reduce the irresponsible use of alcohol, such as binge drinking and drinking and driving.

Using a guided discussion format, Marines and sailors talk about responsible drinking habits that will help individuals make informed decisions about alcohol consumption.

The course also aims to educate Marines on the various risk factors that increase the likelihood of abusing alcohol or developing alcoholism.

Some of these risk factors include family history of alcohol abuse, financial problems, boredom, low self-esteem, significant loss or a unit culture that encourages drinking.

Contrary to popular belief, the program is not designed to make Marines abstain from drinking, but more to raise awareness of problems associated with it, said Smith.

The Marine Corps’ objective is to combat the debilitating threat posed by alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency on both Marines and mission readiness, according to the Marine Corps Community Services website at http://, which offers a description of the Marine Corps alcohol abuse prevention program, a goal that Smith sees succeeding in slow but steady numbers.

The number of driving under the influence charges has decreased by 27 incidents during the last three years, said Smith, who credits this change to consistent safety stand downs and the focus and concern of commands.

The Headquarters Marine Corps-mandated course for noncommissioned officers is scheduled frequently throughout the year. Units that are incomplete with the annual training can call the Substance Abuse Counseling Center and set up a date and time with Smith, he said.

For more information on the BASIC program or any of the Corps’ other alcohol and substance abuse programs, visit

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