INDIAN OCEAN - Throughout the month of April, amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) is reminding sailors it offers support to those who may have alcohol-related problems.
The Navy designated April as Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month, inspiring change in alcohol consumption behavior and offers of assistance to service members who abuse alcohol.
Each command has a designated Drugs and Alcohol Program Advisor (DAPA) that counsels Sailors on how to get the help they need.
"It is my job to make sure that personnel who have a drinking problem or potentially have a drinking problem get screened through self-referral," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Donovan Gummerus, Peleliu's DAPA. "I also advise the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief on policy changes and updates dealing with drugs and alcohol," he added.
If a Sailor seeks help through self-referral, the DAPA walks the Sailor through the steps of finding appropriate treatment.
According to Gummerus, the first step is the Sailor approaching the DAPA, reaching out for assistance. The DAPA, then, has a one-on-one counseling session with the Sailor trying to find the underlying cause of the drinking problem.
"Having open lines of communication is important," said Gummerus. "I want to let the Sailor know, 'it's okay to come see me.' It's not a part of the punishment process, it's about recovery and returning to duty."
Next, DAPA coordinates with a local Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program. The program-licensed professional offers counseling and recommendations about what type of rehabilitation is best suited for the Sailor.
After rehabilitation, DAPA follows with the individual during the aftercare program. During this phase, DAPA further encourages the Sailor to help prevent relapse through more dialog and referral to a program like Alcoholics Anonymous.
"If there is an alcohol problem, self-referral is the best way to go," said Commander Shaun Brown, lead chaplain aboard Peleliu. "We can get them into a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or counseling from the DAPA. I have seen these methods work in past situations."a
Other referral methods, besides self-referral, can be employed to help the Sailor, as well.
A member of the Sailor's chain of command could identify a potential problem, or recommend a command referral. Another option, called an incident referral, occurs when a Sailor has an alcohol related incident.
One of the several chaplains aboard Peleliu help Sailors cope and find assistance.
"We will do whatever it takes to get an individual help," said Brown. "We have a lot of assets aboard that can help."
Brown added that some Sailors and Marines don't have a lot of experience with members of the clergy and don't know what services they offer. A service member does not have to belong to a particular religion to seek help and guidance from a chaplain.
The Navy has recently developed a new campaign entitled, "Keep What You've Earned." The campaign focuses on Sailors' professional accomplishments, reminding them of how much they have to lose due to irresponsible drinking.
Peleliu is the flagship for the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group on deployment in the western Pacific region with amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), and the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.