MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. -- Marines battling drug or alcohol problems now have a resource aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., to turn to for help.
Manuel E. Llanura has been the substance abuse counselor aboard MCLB Barstow since April 26, taking on a billet that has been vacant for two years.
The retired Navy chief petty officer has had extensive training and experience with the subject, first in the U.S. Navy, then as a civilian in establishing and operating counseling programs for the Federal government.
“I’ve had more than ten years in the Navy running substance abuse programs and have a lot of Navy training with Hazelden (one of the leading drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers in the country),” Llanura said.
“I’ve also been to the Rutgers University School of Alcohol and Drug Studies Program three times,” he added.
“My formal education consists of a (Master of Arts) in human relations from the University of Oklahoma and I also possess an Alcohol and Drug Counselor certification.”
There is an understandable concern about Marines going to a SAC after their command finds they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, Llanura explained.
“Many Marines lose their careers not because they came to counseling, but because the problem was ignored. When they come for help, most go on to have very successful and productive careers and that’s what our program is all about,” the native of Baguio City, Philippines, said.
“If you are using drugs and you are in the Marines or in the military, eventually you will be identified,” Llanura added.
The pressures of returning from or going on deployment, or raising a family in the military can sometimes cause even the most emotionally stable Marine to turn to alcohol or drugs and enough of those incidents can threaten a career, Llanura said.
“The people that I usually see are very good workers, so what I do is help them recover and get them back to their job of serving to the best of their ability,” he said.
Untreated alcoholism and drug abuse kills more people every year than war, Llanura pointed out.
“About 50,000 people a year die because of drugs and alcohol (in the U.S.) compared to the Global War on Terrorism, which has claimed 5,000 lives over 10 years,” Llanura said.
Peer pressure also has a lot to do with young Marines drinking to the point where it becomes too big for the command to miss.
“There is a subculture in the military that says drinking is allowed, especially for a lot of the young people who feel ‘since I’m old enough to serve my country I’m old enough to drink,’” he said.
Marines aboard MCLB Barstow will get a chance to meet Llanura during the Fourth of July safety stand down, where he will give a brief on responsible drinking July 1.
There is also a chance for Marines to volunteer their time to help keep young children off drugs and alcohol.
“One project I’m preparing for is the anti-drug Red Ribbon Week observance coming up in October that features an outreach to all of the Barstow public schools,” Llanura said, “and I need some Marines to volunteer to be on the Red Ribbon committee to talk with the students.”
Along with other projects, Llanura said his main emphasis as a substance abuse counselor is to help Marines.
“I bring all of my education, training and experience to MCLB and am capable of establishing a worthwhile substance abuse program,” he emphasized.
“My goal and my motivation as a substance abuse counselor is to save lives and careers in the Marine Corps.”