MCIPAC honored for environmental excellence
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marine Corps Installations Pacific received three awards for environmental quality during the Secretary of the Navy Environmental and Safety Excellence Awards ceremony July 23, at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington D.C.
Ships, individuals and Navy and Marine Corps installations are eligible for awards recognizing their environmental work from the SECNAV Environmental Awards Program, on an annual basis. According to Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus, by presenting awards, the secretary of the Navy recognizes organizations and people who have made significant contributions in environmental areas.
This year, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedly D. Butler, Okinawa received the Overseas Environmental Quality Award and the Environmental Award for Cultural Resource Management.
“These awards shows the dedication (MCIPAC) has toward environmental (affairs),” said Simeon B. Williams, the environmental director for MCIPAC. “It shows that the hard work that everyone in the environmental branch doesn’t go unrecognized. (MCIPAC) has a great team.”
MCB Camp Butler is a dynamic collection of installations and training areas distributed throughout Okinawa, Japan. Encompassing more than 45,000 acres, the mere size of the installation creates various unique environmental challenges that require creativity and flexibility to excel as environmental leaders in the Pacific. MCB Camp Butler provides unique training opportunities in various environmental habitats, including the only Jungle Warfare Training Center in the Marine Corps.
According to Williams, the environmental program is constantly focused on supporting military readiness while balancing environmental sustainability.
“We’re not here to impede and regulate the Marine Corps,” said Williams. “We support the Marine Corps mission by having an aggressive and innovative environmental program that allows for a collaborative environmental partnership between U.S. and Japanese governments.”
One example of this partnership is the collaboration with the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the Japanese Ministry of Environment to trap and safely remove the small Indian mongoose from the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves. According to Williams, the mongoose, an invasive species to Okinawa, poses a threat to native wildlife and degrades the quality of the natural environment.
Another instance of MCB Camp Butler’s dedication to environmental sustainability is its commitment to soil erosion control. Throughout 2014, MCB Camp Butler worked in close coordination with Range Control and Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force soil erosion control project for the maintenance at Landing Zone Starling in the Central Training Area on Camp Hansen. A heavy barrage of storms severely impacted the landing zone resulting in red soil erosion that threatened freshwater and coastal resources. Due to quick response, the branch was able to implement earth berms, silt fencing and hydroseeding to reduce erosion and protect water resources.
“As environmental leaders, it is our mission to support (the Marine Corps) and to be conscientious stewards of the (host nation’s) land entrusted to us,” said Williams. “The success of (MCIPAC) environmental program has been a cornerstone in improving relations between the people of Okinawa and the Marine Corps.”
While the environmental branch in MCB Camp Butler continues to come up with environmental innovations in a foreign land, MCB Hawaii works hard closer to home. MCB Hawaii’s cultural management program received the Environmental Award for Cultural Resources Management. Hawaii’s CRM provides cultural resources to support the military mission while preserving, protecting and enhancing the resources. Their resources include 70 archaeological sites, 234 historic buildings and three historic districts relating to World War II era activities.
According to Coral Rasmussen, an archeologist with MCB Hawaii, the cultural resources program at MCB Hawaii benefits from assistance provided by Marines and sailors in the Fleet Assistance Program. By temporarily becoming part of the cultural resources management team, these service members develop a deeper understanding of Hawaiian culture. Once their FAP is complete, these service members return to their respective sections with robust culture and environmental training.
Consultation with native Hawaiian organizations is a significant part of MCB Hawaii’s CRM program. NHOs provide varied and meaningful insight to the past lifeways of their ancestors.
“The CRM program at MCB Hawaii successfully ensure that the installation lands and facilities are preserved and protected, not only supporting MCB Hawaii’s mission but also the cultural heritage that is so important to the native Hawaiian organizations and community at large,” said Rasmussen. This program has made the Marine Corps a vital member of the Hawaii community today.”
This year marked the fifth straight year that a MCIPAC installation has taken home at least one award, winning a total of ten awards since 2010. MCIPAC’s continued development of innovative environmental solutions has pushed environmental sustainability to the forefront of the Marine Corps mission, proving that it is vital to military readiness.