Services come together for environmental forum

  • Published
  • By Amanda Burris
  • Air Force Civil Engineer Center Public Affairs
Environmental programs across all branches of service provide support to headquarters, installations and stakeholders to enable Defense Department missions. 

In an effort to enhance programs and practices, the Air Force, Army and Navy service providers came together and created the Joint Environmental Forum, a two-day exchange of information that addressed key environmental topics and promoted future partnerships.

The idea for the forum originated when Suzanne Bilbrey, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center environmental director, and Col. Robert C. Wittig, the commander of the U.S. Army Environmental Command, both headquartered in San Antonio. Bilbrey and Wittig met earlier in the year and found that their organizations shared similar challenges. After deciding their programs could benefit from one another, they reached out to Wayne Blodgett, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command environmental program director and set the idea in motion.

"This is helping us be in direct contact with each other and share challenges or solutions," Wittig said. "It is really about communicating and collaborating with your service counterparts."

The service's environmental programs are all diverse and made up of subject matter experts and specialists, engineers, scientists, management professionals and more, all to which help develop and execute numerous environmental services across the U.S. and overseas.

Participants in the forum included leadership and subject matter experts representing AFCEC, NAVFAC, USAEC, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installation Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Army National Guard and the Army Installation Management Command.

"We really didn't know if it would be more of a leadership discussion or more of a detailed one," Bilbrey said. "I really think it has been a mix. One of the main points of this is that we can capitalize on some of the great things being done by everyone because we don't really have a forum where we can currently do that."

The forum, hosted at USAEC headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston started with each branch of service outlining their environmental programs. From there, each organization was given the opportunity to share, discuss and ask questions over the 10 topics Wittig, Bilbrey and Blodgett included on the agenda.

"Hearing the other ways the services are managing their programs and the different initiatives that they are working on points out potential opportunities for us to increase the efficiency of our program and increase our ability to get our job done," Blodgett said. "I kind of view this as the initial setup of the networking to come. Right now we are just starting down a road and this is just the kickoff to that process."

The participants were optimistic about the collaboration initiatives proposed throughout the two-day forum that would not only benefit their respective organizations, but could benefit various communities across the country. They hope to be able to share the benefits with each other and continue with the success and partnerships achieved at the first forum during additional meetings in the future.

"All of the people in here have such unique skill sets that are not duplicated. It's great just to know that there are other people we can reach out to," Bilbrey said. "This diversity of thought through the different services is something you can't get in any other place and embracing that will only help us all to be stronger."