By Col. Michael J. Bouchard
Army National Guard
ARLINGTON, Va. (2/15/13) – I’m an optimist. As we confront a tough fiscal environment and changing natural world, I think now is an exciting time to start tackling sustainability.
Sustainability offers a cost-effective strategy to manage our energy, water, land, and people wisely. It keeps the Army National Guard capable and innovative. In the military, we always want more of everything when we do battle – we don’t want it to be a fair fight, we want to win.
Now that we are tapering deployments, we have the opportunity to devote more attention to making resources last rather than simply supplying the troops with anything and everything.
We can focus on long-term sustainability, including issues like energy and water conservation, waste reduction, encroachment mitigation, and pollution prevention. A sustainable ARNG embodies our motto — “Always Ready, Always There.” If we adjust to emerging conditions, the Guard will be in a stronger position when our economy recovers.
When you don’t have much, you value it more. Where I grew up in Maine, the milkman came to every house with eggs and milk in glass bottles. There was no waste – the milk bottles were reused every week. We were more sustainable then because we truly valued our resources. That was sustainability back when no one was calling it that. America was strong, but not the powerhouse it has become so we were more careful about how we used everything. Thinking back to when I was a young engineer, fresh out of school, I had a tiny salary and I was very cautious about how I spent every dollar. Now is a perfect time to revisit that mentality.
In addition to it being the right time, the Guard is in a great position to be a leader in sustainability because as Citizen-Soldiers we have been operating with fewer resources and working in our communities since our inception. We are the country and that makes us grassroots.
Because we have Guard members in nearly every zip code and congressional district, the Guard is in a unique position to affect change across the nation. For instance, Arizona and Michigan have recycling programs that offset the costs of their own operation. Oregon has cut back on the distance between its armory and maneuver area training equipment sites (MATES), saving on fuel. One forward deployed Guardsman created a convenience center for unwanted items like mini-fridges and chairs, averting illegal dumping and saving items for fellow Soldiers.
Other deployed Soldiers are sharing their agricultural skills with Afghans to increase local crop yields and bring water to fields and homes. This is just a small portion of examples where the Army National Guard is already putting its community values to work and leading in sustainability.
Sustainability is a managing principle – a way of thinking and organizing. It is not an ARNG program in the traditional sense, so really we are each responsible for making the Guard more sustainable. We need a culture change that results in every individual incorporating the concept into their roles within the Army National Guard.
I know that can be hard to do as we go about our day-to-day business, but the current demands on ARNG Soldiers, natural resources and our communities dictate that we value our resources more than ever. Integrating sustainability principles into our planning and management reinforces the Guard’s role and reputation as stewards and leaders in our communities.
I don’t like negative sustainability messages that rely on guilt so my message is this: Be thoughtful and remember to value people and resources now. It will pay off in the future.
Editor’s note: As the G-4, Army National Guard, Col. Mike Bouchard is responsible for sustaining the readiness of our Soldiers through equipping, facilities construction, operations, maintenance and environmental stewardship. Under his leadership, the ARNG is enhancing mission capabilities by conserving energy, adopting new technology, improving security, reducing costs and maintaining access to training sites.
Related LinksFor more information, visit our fact sheet on Army National Guard sustainability.