News: Hazmat: Civilians and government contractors supporting the mission
Story by Tech. Sgt. Joselito Aribuabo
SOUTHWEST ASIA –Teamwork is key to any mission especially when at a deployed location, and the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron Environmental team of seven exemplifies this teamwork.
The team, comprised of military, civilian and local government contractor personnel, works behind the scenes to control and manage all the environmental and hazardous waste programs on base, minimizing the risk to the environment, as well as health and safety risks to everyone on base.
“We support the mission by providing satellite accumulation points for facilities on base to dispose of hazardous waste such as motor oil, paints, cleaning compounds and aircraft fluids,” said Chip Harris, a 379th ECES Hazardous Waste Transit Area civilian contractor and supervisor who hails from Atlanta. “By having these facilities, units dealing with hazardous waste on base can focus more on quality of standards in their job and less concern for where and how to store hazardous waste.”
The HWTA receives an average of more than 10 tons of hazardous and environmental waste per week, so processing, labeling, storing and transporting the hazardous waste within base compliance and local safety standards is not an easy task. Fortunately, they have help of local government contractors.
“Civilians and local government contractors are a permanent fixture because they bring continuity during rotations,” said Maj. Michael Crosse, the 379th ECES Civil Engineering Installation Management flight commander deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and hails from Ore City, Texas. “They help to educate the military and base population on how to handle hazardous waste which keeps us in compliance with local procedures.”
In addition to controlling and managing all the hazardous waste on base, the environmental team provides refresher training to all personnel handling hazardous waste at their work site.
“We make every effort to eliminate redundancy, and due to limited manpower and resources, we try to do more with less by educating and training personnel,” said Nathan Smith, the 379th ECES Environmental Program manager, hailing from San Francisco. “Instead of turning hazardous waste to HWTA, personnel have the knowledge to re-utilize various types of waste fuel and other materials to save money.”
For hazardous waste that is not reusable and requires proper disposal through local facilities, the process of transferring and disposing materials is different here from stateside due to host nation guidelines and standards.
"In order to really get something done here, you need to build a relationship with the local people," explained Smith. "Unlike stateside, it's more like a business transaction."
One of the main initiatives of the program is to recycle materials more in country rather than to ship outside of the country, thus cutting cost. The culture component alone can have a major impact on coordinating and transporting to local facilities.
"Chip is very personable, and that simple foundation goes a long way when building relationships with the local people," said Smith. "Fostering a good relationship with customs and local agencies facilitates the effectiveness and efficiency of what civil engineering is trying to do with regard to the hazardous waste program."
Harris said that he likes his job and supervision, giving him the best of both worlds.
“I’m able to use the knowledge and experience I gained after 28 years in the Air Force and still serve our nation as a civilian,” said Harris. “I guess you can say I like giving back and paying it forward.”