Turkmen visit middle school health students | NevadaAppeal.com

Turkmen visit middle school health students

by Maggie O'Neill
Members of Turkmenistan's state border service listen to an anti-drug program put on by Nevada National Guard members for students Thursday. Rick Gunn Nevada Appeal
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Carson Middle School sixth-grade health students received a bit of a surprise Thursday.

A contingent of men from the state border service and two translators from Turkmenistan were in the school’s library to watch Nevada National Guard members teach the students about drug and alcohol awareness.

“Marijuana is not a subject in our country,” said Maj. Merdan Agayev with Turkmenistan’s State Border Service. “As to drugs and such, it is on very rare occasions that people this young use them. Major drugs users are of older ages.”

He said the drug problem in Turkmenistan has risen over the past six or seven years because of opiates and heroin coming in from Afghanistan to the southeast.

The Turkmen, who also visited the University of Nevada, Reno, agriculture department earlier this week, grow their own food for the border service in a terrain similar to Nevada.

About 15 visits each year occur between Turkmen and Nevada National Guard members, through a program called Partnership for Peace.

“The Partnership for Peace is basically designed to bring U.S. and nations in the former Soviet Union together to help promote democracy in those countries,” said John Morrow, the National Guard program coordinator for the state partnership.

Most of the coalitions with the National Guard in each state are partnerships with Latin American countries.

“We’re one of the few that have a former Soviet Union country,” Morrow said. “The goal is sort of to bring them to be a member of NATO and basically Westernize them after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

The Turkmen observed from the back of the class as Nevada National Guard members showed a short video to students teaching them how to stand up to peer pressure by looking people in the eyes and making a firm suggestion to do other activities.

“Peer pressure happens in everyone’s life,” said Nevada National Guard Senior Airman Eric Chappell.

He and other National Guard members visit fifth- through eighth-graders throughout the state to teach the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and inhalants.

“We give them information on how to resist peer pressure,” said Technical Sgt. Tom Quaranta, who is also involved in the program. “The communication skills we give them allow them to make the best choices.”

Students then asked questions of the Turkmen, including whether smoking is allowed in public places. It is not. And what age people can marry: 18.

“Judging from the questions the students asked us today, they showed very wide knowledge,” Agayev said. “The methods of teaching here are better understandable to children.”

The Turkmen are staying until Saturday.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

Turkmenistan

• Turkmenistan is surrounded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

• Turkmenistan’s western border rests on the Caspian Sea.

• Turkmenistan was annexed by Russia toward the end of the 19th century and gained its independence in 1991.

• Turkmenistan is slightly larger geographically than California.

• Turkmenistan’s population is 4.8 million people.

• 89 percent of the people are practicing Muslims.

• Turkmenistan is a republic with five provinces and its capital is Ashgabat.

– Source: CIA: The World Factbook