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NEWS | Feb. 6, 2014

Environmental issues are high priority at Wyoming's Camp Guernsey

By Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire Wyoming Military Department

CAMP GUERNSEY JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Wyo. - Soldiers, Airmen and Marines have a lot of training to do before entering the field of battle, and that training can sometimes make a mess or damage property.

At Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, where tens of thousands of service members conduct such training every year, keeping the camp in the condition it was found is taken very seriously.

Not only are fuel spills, trash or water usage addressed, but so are historic and cultural sites on the busy military training area.

"Everyone coming here to train is briefed on environmental issues," said Pamela McClure, Camp Guernsey's environmental specialist. "And, everyone has to check in with me before leaving.

"I'm available 24-7 and will check out units day or night," she added. "We'll do a walk through and pick up even a salt packet. We must keep this area sustainable."

Dear to McClure's heart is the "tribal" population that she reports has used the grounds for 10,000 years. She said there are more than 1000 cultural sites on the camp, which include stone circles, and sites where hide scraping and chert gathering was conducted.

"There are places where only foot traffic is allowed, and some very sacred sites, where natives pray before entering." Gen. Steven Mount, when he was garrison commander, made those a no-go area, she added. "We have constraint maps, outlining how an area can be used." McClure takes part in annual meetings, where representatives of more than 20 tribes with an interest in the camp discuss issues.

According to Col. Richard Knowlton, garrison commander, McClure and her assistant Cassie Wells are in the field almost every day. "They are always studying what happened 10,000 years ago and what it will be like next year. They are very conscientious and enthusiastic about what they're doing."

Preserving the history also entails keeping the historic district looking pristine. If someone proposes a plan to build a structure, it is scrutinized and won't be allowed if it impedes a view, even at a great distance.

McClure said, "We won't build anything that upsets the visual element. We have to keep the flavor."

Besides historical preservation and cultural issues, the environmental department also deals with water issues and hazardous materials. Camp Guernsey is the only National Guard training facility that has its own water system and with that, comes close involvement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Also, water purification units need to get special permits to use water from the Guernsey Reservoir, as it can't be put back in. "We use any leftover water for dust suppression," McClure said.

High standards are also applied in the care and handling of hazardous materials, McClure said.

"It used to be someone might have left some oil or paint, but now we have lots of rules regarding storage of materials. Material safety data sheets (MSDS) are well organized in case of a problem."

The camp exceeds federal spill standards, as well. If a quart or more of oil or any hazardous liquid is spilled, it must be reported to the environmental office, however, that is not so the offender will be punished.

"I provide tools to help clean it up," McClure explained. "We understand, you're training and spills happen. We don't want anyone to get in trouble; we just want to get it cleaned up. If people are worried about getting in trouble, they might not report a problem. I look at it as a customer service."