Air Defender uses ASAP for positive lifestyle change

Published 5:28 pm Saturday, April 16, 2016

By Staff Sgt. Kelly Carlton

Special to The Leader

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – Life can lead us into different situations exposing us to new experiences we may have never thought we would or could do, and often times, it is a change for the better.

Pfc. Dayna Collins, a native of Orange, said the day a U.S. Army recruiter eavesdropped on a conversation she had with a friend regarding paying for her next semester of college was one such experience.
“We were shopping and I was telling my friend how some issues with my Family had caused me to lose my financial aid for college,” said Collins, a Patriot Launching Station Enhanced Operator-Maintainer, who recently left her assignment with A Battery, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in South Korea. “The recruiter said he couldn’t help but overhear and told me he had a solution to my issue.”
Several months later, in October 2014, Collins said she enlisted in the U.S. Army.
“I have it made today,” Collins joked. “I am a private in the Army so all I do is wake up and wait to follow orders. Life is good.”
After completing basic combat and advanced individual training, Collins headed to South Korea where life for her took another turn.
She tells about a time when she and a group of fellow Soldiers, known as battle buddies, were asking their commander about being able to celebrate after several weeks of hard training after not being allowed to drink alcohol or go off post.
“We had been at Warrior Base in August of last year. After the commander said we could drink but not leave post, my battle buddy made a comment in front of him that if that’s the case then I didn’t need to drink at all,” Collins said.
She said her commander pulled her to the side and asked why her friend was saying that about her.
“He asked a few more questions about my drinking habits and then he suggested I should go to the Army Substance Abuse Program,” Collins said.
ASAP’s mission is to strengthen the overall fitness and effectiveness of the Army´s workforce, to conserve manpower and enhance the combat readiness of Soldiers. Additionally, ASAP is responsible for providing guidance and leadership on all non-clinical alcohol and other drug policy issues.
“I blew it off for several weeks. I just didn’t think I had a problem,” Collins said. “I felt like my buddies had thrown me under the bus.”
Collins said before she joined the Army in 2014, she didn’t drink often but when she did drink, she drank heavily. After some additional counseling from her senior leaders, she said she made the decision to self-enroll because she felt she had a problem.
“It was the best thing I have done since joining the Army,” Collins said. “ASAP taught me about life choices and today I make much better choices.”
Collins said with her ASAP education she now realizes she wasn’t dependent on alcohol but she did abuse it. Her new lifestyle means zero consumption and she said she had to make additional changes that were even more difficult than self-enrolling.
“Before, my friends all wanted to go out and drink like me. Now my friends are gym rats,” Collins said. “I still have a few from before but I don’t want to be around people who won’t support my new lifestyle.”
Collins said before ASAP she didn’t think her drinking affected her job performance but she was wrong about that too.
“I was overweight by a lot,” she said. “Since October of last year when I stopped drinking, I have lost 30 pounds. I love being a Patriot operator and now I have a lot more energy to do my job.”
Air Defense units in South Korea maintain a high readiness rate due to the constant threat from North Korea. Their mission is critical and readiness training is an important part of every unit’s training plan. Keeping Soldiers focused and competent is every command’s highest priority.
“I’ve learned as a Soldier that I have to be ready and drinking didn’t help me with that,” Collins said.
Collins said she is heading to Fort Hood, Texas and will be joined by her new fiancé, who is also being stationed there.
“I got engaged to the battle buddy who first said something to the commander,” Collins said. “He supports everything I do.”
Korea has a known reputation for challenging Soldiers to stay on track while stationed here. Collins proved that making the best choices can be done anywhere.
“I have tools now,” Collins said. “If there is someone, a friend or even a Family member who isn’t being supportive, I have tools to cope. I don’t need friends like that anyway.”
Collins said she is grateful for all of her experiences that the Army has brought to her life and remains positive about her future.
“I am grateful to my battle buddies and my command. I am a better person and a much better Soldier after serving in Korea,” said Collins.