PHOENIX - Americans join the military for many reasons, including a call to defend their country. In the Arizona National Guard, defending the country involves protecting fellow citizens as well as the environment.
"We must be good stewards of the land and protect the environment," said Dorenda Coleman, sustainability manager for the Arizona Guard.
The Arizona Guard's environmental department consists of 14 specialists including an archeologist, a sustainability manager and a wildlife manager.
"The goal is to enforce federal and state environmental laws, such as protecting endangered species and mitigating any environmental concerns that might shut down military training," Coleman said.
There are seven ways the Arizona Guard protects the environment and makes it available for military training, said Army Lt. Col. John Ladd, environmental program manager. Those include wildlife management and forest health and protection, pollution prevention, recycling, clean air and water conservation, site cleanup, cultural resource management and sustainability measures.
At Camp Navajo and Florence Military Reservation—two Arizona Guard installations—wildlife management is crucial for the protection of unique species. Camp Navajo has two threatened species—the Mexican spotted owl and the American bald eagle—while the Florence reservation has two endangered candidate species—the Sonoran desert tortoise and the Tucson shovel-nosed snake.
By protecting these animals, the installation receives funds that benefit the training facilities.
"Money from the protection of the Mexican spotted owl was used to thin the forest which led to thinning trails and road development," Ladd said. "At Camp Navajo, there are 500 trees per acre."
Ladd said too many trees make a negative impact on water supply. A solution is to groom the trees down which makes the area more fire resistant and provides more space on the installation for sustained operations.
"We include the process in our training plans so by thinning the trees, we improved training capabilities," Ladd said.
Another concern is pollution and hazardous materials. If the materials cannot be eliminated, then the office wants to ensure proper handling and disposal of oils, resins and other expended materials.
"For example, two years ago all but one solvent parts cleaner in the state was removed and we replaced the cleaners with a bionic wash containing an enzyme that eats waste," Ladd said.
He said replacing those solvents is not only safer, it also saves the Arizona Guard $20,000 — paying for itself over five years.
Additionally, the environmental office recycles brass, cardboard, office paper, bulk aluminum and plastic bottles.
"Our recycling efforts have kept 182 tons of garbage out of the landfill and saved the state $5,000 annually in trash fees that can now be used for training personnel," Ladd said.
Soldiers participate in the program by depositing trash, plastic and cans in appropriate canisters.
Ladd also said clean air and water conservation are major focus areas.
"This is achieved by following federal and state laws, acquiring proper permits, and testing to ensure standards are met with drinking water from wells located in training facilities," he said.
In addition, Ladd said cultural resource management is needed to protect historic buildings and prehistoric settlements.
"The Regional Training Institute at Papago Military Reservation is on the historical building list as the largest free standing adobe building in the state. This building is still being used today and needs to be protected," he said.
The sustainment program works with four teams focused on different aspects of sustainment, including infrastructure and utilities, logistics and procurement, readiness, and community outreach.
The infrastructure and utilities teams ensure new buildings integrate the latest science and engineering concepts to reduce negative impacts on the natural environment. This includes implementing energy saving products to save water and electricity.
Logistics and procurement teams ensure units buy recycled paper and other products that promote sustainability.
Readiness teams protect bases—including the Florence Military Reservation— from public encroachment.
"FMR needs protection from home builders trying to build to the fence line," Coleman said. "Housing encroachment might affect the ranges out there."
Community outreach focuses on events such as the Arizona Army National Guard Earth Day event held at Papago Park Military Reservation. The two days focus on environmental protection information and presentations on protected animals.
"All of these programs are centered on protecting the environment, so we can continue to train service members," Ladd said.