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sm191028-Z-ON199-1018Sgt. Alec Libby with the Wisconsin National Guard’s counterdrug program helps unload sealed boxes of prescription drugs at a regional Drug Take Back Day collection site in southeastern Wisconsin Oct. 28. The Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program helped the Drug Enforcement Agency and Wisconsin Department of Justice collect more than 58,000 pounds of drugs throughout Wisconsin on Drug Take Back Day October 26. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Katie Theusch

The Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program helped the Drug Enforcement Agency and Wisconsin Department of Justice collect more than 58,000 pounds of drugs throughout Wisconsin on Drug Take Back Day October 26.

Soldiers and Airmen with the Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program went out into Wisconsin communities and assisted local law enforcement and other state agencies during the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Drug Take Back Day.

Wisconsin has been participating in Drug Take Back Day since May of 2015. Wisconsin’s participation is part of the DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Day which began in 2010. The event takes place twice a year, typically on the last Saturday in April and October.

The Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program has always been a financial contributor to the project, but has taken a more hands-on role recently according to Danielle Long, a Wisconsin DOJ employee who oversees and organizes Drug Take Back Day in the state.

sm191028-Z-ON199-1041Tech. Sgt. Alexandra Underwood with the Wisconsin National Guard’s counterdrug program stacks sealed boxes of prescription drugs at a regional Drug Take Back Day collection site in southeastern Wisconsin Oct. 28. The Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program helped the Drug Enforcement Agency and Wisconsin Department of Justice collect more than 58,000 pounds of drugs throughout Wisconsin on Drug Take Back Day October 26. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Katie Theusch

While the Wisconsin National Guard’s federal mission is to act as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force, its domestic mission is to support civil authorities here at home.

Long said it was great to have Wisconsin National Guard volunteers at Drug Take Back events on Oct. 26, as well as at regional collection sites on Oct. 28 where all the drugs are collected, weighed, and wrapped in pallets before they are taken to Indianapolis for destruction.

“We know that 70 percent of people who end up misusing medications get them from somebody else – it’s not their own medication that they were using,” Long said. “It’s awesome to have all of these partners. We’re working towards the same mission. I think it helps get the word out.”

sm191028-Z-ON199-1057Tech. Sgt. Alexandra Underwood with the Wisconsin National Guard’s counterdrug program places sealed boxes of prescription drugs on a scale to be weighed at a regional Drug Take Back Day collection site in southeastern Wisconsin Oct. 28. The Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program helped the Drug Enforcement Agency and Wisconsin Department of Justice collect more than 58,000 pounds of drugs throughout Wisconsin on Drug Take Back Day October 26. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Katie Theusch

Long added that there have been discussions about how the Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program and the Wisconsin Department of Justice can continue to collaborate.

“[The Wisconsin National Guard Counterdrug Program has] resources that we don’t have, and that’s half the battle is knowing who’s got skills, resources, and talents that we can all tap into to try and combat this epidemic the best that we can. We’re grateful for that support,” Long said.

Lt. Col. Paul Felician, the director of the Wisconsin National Guard’s counterdrug program, said partnerships with other state and local agencies are crucial to fulfilling the counterdrug program’s mission.

“I think it’s one of the things that gets to the heart of being a Guardsperson,” Felician said. “Our primary job, not only to be a Soldier or an Airman, is to serve our communities, and drugs are a scourge on our community. This is one way we can directly impact that problem.”

He added that working side-by-side with partner agencies helps build familiarity and trust, which helps establish relationships for the future partnership opportunities.

“The Guard is at its best when we are working in the community and building community partnerships,” Felician said. “I think that’s when we deliver the most for the citizens that we serve.”

Several Guardsmen who volunteered to help with Drug Take Back Day were able to volunteer in the communities they live in, or the ones directly surrounding them. Staff Sgt. Tammy Andrews, a budget analyst with the counterdrug program, helped coordinate this effort with local law enforcement agencies.

“They’ve been very welcoming and appreciative of us being there, and they’re really interested in partnering with us,” Andrews said.

This was Andrews’ first time participating in the event. She learned a lot while volunteering at the McFarland Police Department, and appreciated that all of the drugs won’t end up in the community’s water supply or in the wrong hands.

“The people who dropped off were super nice people and appreciative that we actually did this,” Andrews said.

Since the program’s inception, Wisconsin communities have collected more than 774,000 pounds of drugs for destruction.