Eglin’s environmental team named best in DOD

  • Published
  • By Mike Spaits
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Eglin's environmental team won the Defense Department's top environmental prize, earning the 2016 Secretary of Defense Environmental Quality Team award.

The award recognizes individuals, teams and installations that support mission readiness through its environmental activities.

Through its commitment to environmental excellence, stewardship of community resources and sustainability to the warfighter, Eglin AFB created programs to support the 96th Test Wing and its 47 tenant units to help accomplish their missions.

"This award is a tremendous achievement that reflects the dedication of the Eglin environmental management team,” said Brig. Gen. Chris Azzano, the 96th TW commander. “This group of skilled professionals incorporates energy efficiency, sustainability and environmental stewardship into everything we do, and I know Team Eglin is proud of them."

The environmental quality team preserves an assemblage of biodiversity, from the fire-dependent, old growth longleaf pine forest to white barrier islands, while providing a proving ground and delivering weapons to the warfighter. The team consists of four separate sections: environmental compliance, natural resource management, cultural resource management and environmental planning.

The award marks the fourth DOD award for the division in the last five years including the 2011 Secretary of Defense Cultural Resources Team award, 2011 Secretary of Defense Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation award and 2014 Secretary of Defense Natural Resources Conservation Management Team award.

"Being recognized four times in five years as the best in the Department of Defense is a direct result of the professionalism and care our team brings every day to the management of Eglin's environmental resources," said Col. Craig Johnson, the 96th Civil Engineer Group commander. "It truly takes a team of dedicated people and installation partnering to excel at this level."

"This win is not only for our (civil engineer) team," he said, "it's a testament to the support we receive here every day."

Among the team's accomplishments, they spearheaded the reuse of 18,000 tons of wastewater treatment plant sludge, cooking oil, tires and antifreeze, saving the base $3 million in disposal costs while diverting solid waste from the landfill.

The team established multiple methods for reuse and recycling to exceed the DOD nonhazardous solid waste diversion goal of 50 percent, successfully leading Eglin AFB to exceed the presidential goal by nearly 30 percent, with a 78 percent nonhazardous solid waste diversion.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the environmental planning office pointed the way to environmental compliance by evaluating nearly 1,100 requests for environmental impact analysis and 2,464 base civil engineer work requests. The team also completed 106 environmental baseline surveys and associated waivers, and managed two environmental impact statements and completion of 12 Environmental Assessments.

They also successfully amended Eglin's red-cockaded woodpecker programmatic biological assessment and obtained U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurrence on a reduced requirement for the labor-intense manual preparation of active cavity-nesting trees before prescribed fire is applied. Reducing the level of cavity tree preparation across Eglin saved the Air Force over $20,000 and 400 man hours annually.