GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- The Navy Total Force/Manpower, Personnel, Education, and Training Fleet Master Chief visited members of the Great Lakes Area Chapter of the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) Aug. 23 to share ideas on how to improve the Navy's peer-mentoring program.
Fleet Master Chief (SW/AW/SCW) Scott A. Benning, who initiated and oversees the CSADD program, met with leadership of the Great Lakes area chapter to learn how they use social media, junior Sailor leadership and, in particular, an ongoing video campaign to highlight the consequences of poor decision making.
"I'm excited to see the great things you are doing here with CSADD - particularly with your videos," said Benning. "Because of their message and impact, they were sent to every flag officer in the Navy."
The short videos or "spots" put a junior Sailor spin on topics ranging from general safety awareness to bystander intervention and suicide prevention, and have developed a following via social media outlets among the nearly 4,000 student Sailors attending their initial Navy trade schools aboard Naval Station Great Lakes.
"It all started out innocently enough," said Seaman Kit Wingate, who is president of the chapter and portrays the popular character and chapter mascot "CSADD Guy" in the spots.
After a few videos, the former Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUDS) candidate found that his trademark smile and thumbs-up were gaining him a lot of attention not normally seen in a command that cycles through 14,000 Sailors a year.
"I'll go out to lunch and people will say, 'Hey, it's CSADD Guy,' and I like to play along with them," said Wingate, who sees the recognition as proof that their message is being heard. "He shows that what CSADD does can be cool. He doesn't have an identity because we want everyone to know that they can be CSADD Guy too."
Benning stressed that when CSADD was started it had to be implemented on a voluntary basis at commands and needed to be run by junior Sailors.
"We didn't want CSADD to be mandatory because then it wouldn't be run by the people who it is supposed to help," Benning said. "I think it is becoming infectious throughout the Navy because junior Sailors want to be involved and help their peers."
For the Great Lakes chapter, CSADD Guy is just the most visible part of their efforts. The handful of Sailors awaiting transfer to their first command has an opportunity to pass on their knowledge to those arriving to the base's schools fresh from boot camp.
Their work includes conducting presentations at new student indoctrination and small group sexual assault training as well as organizing group events and meetings.
"We really like to get involved with the new students so they don't find trouble with the new-found freedoms of school," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Mariko Convis, the chapter's secretary.
Through their efforts, the Great Lakes Area CSADD has seen a positive impact over the last eight months, which Convis said was reinforced by Benning's visit.
"We've grown from four people to about 500 actively and passively involved, so it's really exciting to have a fleet master chief come and visit us because we are making a difference, and that's why I joined the Navy," said Convis.
The Great Lakes Area CSADD Chapter has been nominated for the 2011 CSADD Shore Chapter of the Year.
To learn more about CSADD, visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coalition-of-Sailors-Against-Destructive-Decisions-CSADD/299642495316. For more information about the Great Lakes Area CSADD Chapter, visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/greatlakescsadd.
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Midwest/Naval Station Great Lakes, visit www.navy.mil/local/midwest/.