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'A one-stop shop': Local Air National Guard unit honored for efforts fighting illegal drug use

The 123rd Air Control Squadron honored by the DEA
Posted at 7:57 PM, Sep 13, 2023

BLUE ASH, Ohio — A local Air National Guard unit is being honored for its work fighting illegal drug use.

The 123rd Air Control Squadron has helped the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) transport and dispose of 800 pounds of unused prescription drugs over the last twelve months, as part of DEA’s Drug Take Back Day.

“Prescription drugs can easily be the gateway,” said Joe Reder, Cincinnati DEA Resident Agent in Charge.

That’s why the DEA encourages individuals to drop off unused prescription medication, to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.

“Logistically, destroying and collecting that much,” he said. “You need an expert.”

That’s where the 123rd Air Control Squadron comes in. The unit provides manpower, a warehouse and other supplies to help transport and dispose of the drugs.

“To have that resource without having to find a way to fund it, or wherever else we need to go, it's a one-stop shop,” Reder said.

On Wednesday, the unit was honored by the DEA for the first time after years of work in these efforts.

The work is part of a larger partnership between the DEA and Ohio National Guard. The Ohio National Guard’s Counterdrug Program assists various law enforcement and community-based organizations to combat illegal drug use and trafficking.

“The impact, it's immeasurable,” said Ohio National Guard 1st Lt. Justin Aichele, regional operations officer for the South of Ohio. “What the military side brings to the law enforcement side, you can't put a number on it.”

1st Lt. Aichele said the Ohio National Guard has databases that analysts use to support each agency it works with that can help provide key details like addresses and phone numbers.

The Counterdrug Program provided full-time analysis support to 35 law enforcement agencies and six community-based substance abuse prevention in FY23, according to the Ohio National Guard 2023 Annual Report.

The program also assists with outreach and education, especially targeted toward kids, which Reder described as “the silver bullet.”

“We need to stop kids from trying these drugs, trying a prescription pill, trying something on the streets,” said Reder. “They don't know what it is.”

Six out of ten fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl that the DEA tested last year contained a potentially deadly dose of the drug.

“That is worse odds than Russian roulette,” Reder said.

While fentanyl remains a key threat, Reder said cocaine and methamphetamine were also making comebacks in the region.

Getting drugs off the streets is key in preventing overdoses, but also in reducing the violence that goes along with drug trafficking. The effort requires all hands on deck.

“With the scourge of drugs being what it is, any little part we can we can do that takes 800 pounds of material off the street before it's a problem is a great thing,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Moore, commander of the 123rd Air Control Squadron.

The next DEA Drug Take Back Day will be Oct. 28.

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