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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A few hands shot up when the Navy captain asked which sailors in the room didn’t want to be there.

The jokes came easy. Asked about the class’s purpose, one sailor wisecracked, “I think it’s about broccoli, about nutrition.” Another wanted to know if there would be smoke breaks.

Of the 22 sailors sitting in a circle in a Naval Air Facility Misawa classroom Thursday morning, some clearly felt they had better things to do; most had no idea why they were there — except that supervisors told them to go.

“It’s mostly about alcohol, trying to get you in line,” offered one sailor.

He was somewhat right. Personal Responsibility and Values Education Training, or PREVENT, is a three-day course for sailors ages 18 to 25 — generally E-1 to E-5 — that’s part of the Navy’s ongoing “Right Spirit” campaign to deglamorize alcohol use.

Other topics include tobacco and drug use, responsible sexual behavior, personal finances and fitness.

But class facilitator Sarah Stivers, a contractor from Yokosuka Naval Base, said PREVENT’s underlying theme is getting sailors to think about their values and whether choices they make support those values. Most have prior Navy training in most of the same PREVENT topics.

“But we still have people not eating healthy, misusing alcohol,” Stivers said. “They know the stuff; they’re just not doing it.”

PREVENT takes an informal, seminar-style approach, with Stivers attempting to facilitate a conversation among the sailors rather than preaching or lecturing. She won’t report to commanders what’s said unless a sailor is suicidal, homicidal or discloses current illegal drug use.

“This is more about what you want to do,” she told the sailors. “What are the consequences of what you’re doing and are you willing to face those consequences or would you like to make a plan to do something differently?

“It’s your life,” she added. “When you walk out this room in three days, I’m not going to be there to tell you what to do. You have a choice to make in every one of these topics.”

The Department of the Navy thinks the class is working. It recently renewed a five-year contract for the program with Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation for up to $20 million, according to a company news release. The training has been conducted since 1995 on 47 bases worldwide.

At Misawa, the class is offered about once a year. Capt. Wayne Radloff, NAF Misawa commander, said he highly recommends it to his young sailors. Within Commander Naval Forces Japan, either Alcohol-Aware or PREVENT training is required for blue-card liberty privileges.

As Thursday’s class progressed, a few sailors still looked pained to be there but most were engaged, discussing their professional and personal lives and the values shaping both.

“If people take it seriously, you can get a lot out of it,” said 22-year-old Petty Officer 3rd Class Spencer Ivie, a cryptologic technician who freely admitted he’d been to alcohol rehabilitation. Now sober, he kept a big bottle of orange juice by his side during the class.

“It’s more about helping other people, learning from other people’s choices,” he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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