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PREVENT instructor Adele Mamaril gives certificates to sailors at Misawa Naval Air Facility, Japan, who completed her class last week.

PREVENT instructor Adele Mamaril gives certificates to sailors at Misawa Naval Air Facility, Japan, who completed her class last week. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA NAVAL AIR FACILITY, Japan — Petty Officer 2nd Class Estuardo Iriarte is making it a point not to imbibe during the holidays.

It’s a goal he devised during 24 hours of classroom training designed to help young sailors make better life decisions and reduce risky behavior.

“I want to keep my friends from getting in trouble and it will keep me from drinking, too,” said the 22-year-old jet engine mechanic.

Estuardo is one of 73 sailors here to attend “Personal Responsibility and Values: Education and Training,” or PREVENT.

The class, taught in three sections during the past two weeks, was “highly recommended” for sailors ages 18 to 26, said Chief Petty Officer Lester Wellmaker, a hospital corpsman instrumental in bringing the program here for the first time.

A Navy program since 1996, PREVENT has numerous offices overseas and in the United States. The Japan PREVENT office is at Yokosuka Naval Base.

Previously, Misawa sent sailors to Yokosuka to attend the class, Wellmaker said. But he thought coordinating the program with the onset of the holiday season was important, especially at Misawa, where winters can be harsh and sailors away from home for the first time can feel isolated, bored or depressed — which can lead to further problems.

Although PREVENT is part of the Navy’s Right Spirit campaign to deglamorize alcohol use, alcohol awareness is just one piece of the PREVENT curriculum, said program facilitator Adele Mamaril. “We talk about behavior, values, their beliefs and how to make better decisions,” she said. “It’s about making better choices.”

Other major topics covered during the three days include interpersonal responsibility, personal finances, health and readiness.

Sailors often find personal finance information an eye-opener, Mamaril said. Through individual and group exercises, students develop a spending plan, learn the common “money traps” and special challenges to Navy personnel.

“We ask them to calculate their expenses,” Mamaril said. “Some realize, ‘I think I’m spending too much. I can buy a car after two years’” by cutting back.

“We teach them how to manage their credit cards and how to build credit history,” she said.

Alcohol use can also contribute to overspending and other consequences, Mamaril said. “The biggest risk is when they make compulsive decisions,” she said, “such as when they go out with their peers and decide to drink without limit.”

Sailors usually know the risks of such behavior — everything from catching a sexually transmitted disease to getting into a bar fight, Mamaril said. But PREVENT teaches them how to manage the risks: Sailors develop an action plan that addresses how to fix a behavior or habit they’d like to improve.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Sydney James chose to monitor his alcohol consumption during weekends. Consequences of drinking too much aren’t worth it, he said. He plans to track and limit his number of drinks per hour.

“If I complete this plan, I’ll be more in control of my social drinking habit,” he said.

PREVENT also can build camaraderie, Wellmaker said.

“The Single Sailor Program helps with getting them out, but you still have some members who are shy,” he said. “This helps them come out of their shell and relate to other people.”

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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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