News: MCB Hawaii Environmental Department receives SecDef award
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - The Environmental Compliance and Protection Department aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii recently earned both the 2014 Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy Environmental Awards in the Natural Resources Conservation, Small Installation category.
The base received a trophy, certificate of appreciation and an American flag. Both wins were based on the installation’s accomplishments during fiscal year 2013.
“MCB Hawaii demonstrated the innovative use of limited funding to protect the environment while accomplishing their mission,” states the Department of Defense Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Network and Information Exchange at www.denix.osd.mil.
Military installations, departments and individual staff members have been recognized by the DoD for environmental efforts since 1962. Large and small installations alternately compete on even and odd fiscal years, respectively.
The base has earned many awards in various categories for more than 30 years, including previous SecNav award wins in 1996 and 2006.
“While we understand that awards are subjective in nature, the summary of action write-ups are based on real actions taken by individuals who recognize that this is about something bigger than themselves,” said Capt. Derek George, director of the Environmental Department. “The installation’s mission and credibility are always at the forefront of my mind when these awards are announced. I am proud to congratulate the department on its fourth Secretary of the Navy and third Secretary of Defense Environmental Award over the last four years, and I am extremely grateful to have been a part of this great achievement.”
According to a Sept. 4, 2013 memorandum by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, the Natural Resources Conservation category recognizes “efforts to promote the conservation of natural resources, including the identification, protection, and restoration of biological resources and habitats; the sound long-term management and use of the land and its resources; and the promotion of the conservation ethic.”
“In my opinion, the success of the award can be attributed to (several) factors,” George said. “First and foremost are the dedicated stewards of the Natural Resources and other environmental programs who tirelessly implement processes (balancing) resource conservation and operational requirements. They have maintained a strong relationship with our regulators and partners to ensure that this balance is realized. Second, the support of the commanding officer and principal staff has allowed us to do our jobs. Knowing that the command has trust and confidence in our recommendations speaks volumes to the program
managers and regulators, and fosters a productive work environment.”
According to the base’s nomination package, the base department was engaged in multiple labor-intensive projects, such as reopening a floodway for Waimanalo stream. The base also assisted the neighboring Kailua community by diverting the Kailua Bay current to its stream banks, preventing future floods in the area.
“We appreciate the recognition for the hard work that we do,” said Todd Russell, natural resources manager at the Environmental Department. “It’s nice to have a pat on the back every once in awhile.”
The MCB Hawaii community has also played a role in environmental projects on the base.
Last year, Marines assisted Natural Resources staff with the removal of 300 muddy tires from Nuupia Ponds. Although the tires initially served as a nesting ground for the Hawaiian stilt shorebirds during the 1980s, they have since stopped using them.
In addition, more than 500 service members and civilians volunteered more than 800 hours helping the department staff clear invasive plants and other obstructions in wetland, coastal and wildlife management areas.
“It takes everybody’s support to maintain our base’s natural resources,” said Lance Bookless, the senior natural resources manager for the Environmental Department. “There’s a broad range of supportive acts, such as simply avoiding damage to and showing respect for the (surrounding) environment.”
Bookless said the department is grateful for assistance from various entities including, but not limited to, the Base Inspector’s Office and Sierra Club.
“The Marines, sailors and civilian employees who work and live aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii have a great understanding of how important it is to protect our resources, which makes compliance with environmental law less difficult at times,” George said. “Many have volunteered their personal time to support our programs, and we are thankful for their contributions as well.”