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Friends attend the funeral of a fallen fellow Marine while a Navy Chaplain comforts his grieving sister, all part of a safety brief held at the theater here Oct. 13 in the form of a play. The play covered drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and suicide awareness.

Photo by Sgt. Mel Lopez

SACC presents safety brief with a twist

13 Oct 2005 | Sgt. Mel Lopez

It is Friday morning and Lance Cpl. Smith is late for work. He walks slowly into the office with his head down. The young Marine goes straight to his desk without saying a word. His coworkers notice Smith’s somber mood, but they don’t approach him. Everyone goes about his or her usual business. Well, almost everyone."So," said his staff sergeant with disgust in her voice, "you finally made it in." "Yeah," replied the young Marine.She glares at him and corrects the young Marine. "That’s ‘YES staff sergeant!’" "YES, staff sergeant!" At this point, his superior is upset, and asks the lance corporal what his problem is. Smith doesn’t answer. The enraged leader of Marines, not aware that Smith was distressed, corrects his behavior. She only seems to care about his inexcusable conduct toward her. He goes about the rest of his morning, troubled.Lunchtime finally approaches. The sulking lance corporal goes to the mess hall. His condition has not changed a bit. After getting his food at the chow line, Smith finds a table and keeps to himself. He sits and simply stares at his meal. When confronted by one of his comrades, Smith states he doesn’t have an appetite, and walks away.After lunch, he returns to his workplace, only to be confronted by his staff sergeant once more."So Lance Cpl. Smith, did you finish that job that I tasked you with?" asks his superior, again with disgust in her voice."No," said Smith.Tempers heightened, she asks Smith in a raised voice, "Didn’t I specifically ask you to get this done by 1300 today? I didn’t say 1310, or 1320, and certainly not 1400."Upset with his demeanor and behavior, the staff sergeant proceeds to reprimand the young Marine. She takes away his "liberty", a period of time off granted to Marines. One look at his face, and it becomes apparent that this doesn’t fare well with him.The reason Smith had been acting awkward was because he got word that his grandmother had passed away. He couldn’t come up with a way to express himself, so he kept his feelings bottled up, and they were making him feel worse and worse. He turned to drugs and alcohol to ease his pain. At times, he would take his anger out on his girlfriend. Eventually, it would become too much for him to handle. He commits an act that would never be reversed: suicide.Fortunately, these were only scenes of a play conducted at the Henderson Hall Theatre Oct. 13. The powerful play depicted real-life problems that real-life people suffer everyday. The Substance Abuse Combat Center here hosted the play, which was designed to meet the Marine Corps annual suicide awareness, domestic violence prevention, and substance abuse prevention training requirements for both troops and supervisors training in those areas. Rather than the usual "death-by-PowerPoint" presentation, the brief was conducted in the form of a play with a multi-service cast of actors from Fort George G. Meade, Md."Many who have already seen this presentation have agreed that this is an extremely effective means of getting the prevention message across," said Master Gunnery Sgt. John Charles, Henderson Hall’s Substance Abuse Combat Officer. "Upon seeing one of the several showings at Fort Meade in July 2005, I felt this would have a good impact on our local sailors and Marines. After discussing it with Staff Sgt. Smith, the (MCSB) SACO and his sergeant major, I managed to convince everyone that, although they had already shut down production, making a special run for the sailors and Marines in the DC area would be of great benefit to the Marine Corps as a whole."The troubled Marine depicted in the play was actually the creator of the play. Staff Sgt. Peter Smith of Bravo Company, Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion, Fort Meade, Md developed the script and presented the brief for his battalion. After a few local showings, it was brought to the attention of Henderson Hall’s SACC office by his own SACO. They noticed something special about his safety brief. They believed it would be one that would grab the Marines’ attention, and help them remember it for a long time."It doesn’t hurt to have an additional method to use when you have an important message that you are trying to convey to the service members," said Smith.Although the play would probably make service members think twice before committing such acts, Smith’s play was geared more toward helping Marines read the warning signs so they may be able to assist their peers or subordinates if necessary."These are they guys that need to interfere and do something before it would actually happens," said Smith. "As soon as they see something out of place, they need to be able to recognize it, and be able to put it back into place."Even though they technically stopped producing the play, Smith hopes that word of mouth will spread this recent showing and eventually get a “tour” started. He’s already gotten word that Marine Corps Base Hawaii is interested in his work. Smith plans on changing the theme of his plays every year, to cover the different topics of Marine Corps safety awareness training. He hopes that by spreading the message in this manner, he’ll be able to influence service members and let them know not to be afraid to intervene if they see the warning signs expressed in his plays."Say something, and you might just save a life."
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