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West Virginia Guard's role in Governor's JIM's Dream initiative

Brig. Gen. Christopher “Mookie” Walker assumed command of the West Virginia Air National Guard from Brig. Gen. Paige P. Hunter during a formal change of command ceremony held Feb. 2, 2019, at the 130th Airlift Wing, McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston.

Brig. Gen. Christopher “Mookie” Walker assumed command of the West Virginia Air National Guard from Brig. Gen. Paige P. Hunter during a formal change of command ceremony held Feb. 2, 2019, at the 130th Airlift Wing, McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston. The ceremony recognized the formal transfer of responsibility, authority, and accountability for all WVANG operations in West Virginia from Brig. Gen. Paige Hunter to Walker, the first African-American Assistant Adjutant General (ATAG) - Air in the state’s history.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --

It’s long been a part of our organizational vision that the West Virginia National Guard can be a catalyst for change in this state, whether that be through creating economic opportunities, being responsive to emergencies or by utilizing the talent within our ranks to tackle the toughest problems plaguing West Virginia. Our Commander-in-Chief, Gov. Jim Justice, has created an initiative called JIM’S Dream to provide free addiction treatment and career or technical advice and training for West Virginians who need it most. JIM’s Dream, which stands for Jobs in Making You Succeed, takes a whole-of-government approach to solve one of the toughest problems facing our state, and the West Virginia National Guard will have a role in this new initiative.

Through the JIM’s Dream program, the West Virginia National Guard will play an important role in workforce development training for those who enter the program. Specifically, the Guard will provide heavy equipment operations training and certifications through some of our training venues in the state. In addition, we will advance our agricultural initiatives, through our Patriot Guardens program, with various recovery agencies to expand options for those seeking treatment.  

All West Virginians will be welcome to receive free additional training and certification through the JIM’s Dream program, whether they are seeking or actively recovering from drug addiction or attempting to improve their economic status. JIM’s Dream will also provide the opportunity for those who complete training to expunge misdemeanor offenses from their record or have their license reinstated, ultimately removing common barriers for employment.

As JIM’S Dream begins to take form, I foresee our role in assisting the men and women of this state in recovery and workforce development as some of the most important work we will do in my nearly 40-year career in the military, and I hope that passion is shared throughout our ranks.

For many years, the West Virginia National Guard has been intricately involved in the Governor’s efforts to eradicate the drug epidemic from this state. Part of that initiative has been establishing anti-drug coalitions and effective prevention practices in our schools through mentoring, book readings and flag folding with youth through the Drug Demand Reduction program. In addition, our Patriot Guardens program is in the process of establishing agricultural production and education facilities that cater to the needs of those undergoing treatment for drug abuse and for our military/veteran population. But, these initiatives alone are not enough to address the problem we face as a state.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are approximately 154,000 individuals with a substance abuse disorder in our state – nearly 10 percent of our state - and less than 10 percent of those identified are receiving treatment. It is a staggering snapshot of the effects of the drug epidemic in West Virginia, and in order to fix a problem of this magnitude, it’s going to take all of us to make it happen. These people are our neighbors, our friends and our family. They need our help and we cannot give up.

The State of West Virginia may be the first in the Nation to take this approach to solving a problem that seemed too large to take on. Through Gov. Justice’s vision and with the help of all agencies in the State and the public’s support, we can truly make a difference in the lives of current and future generations of West Virginians. I have the utmost faith in the resiliency and tenacity of our citizens as we work together for a better future for everyone.