CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler’s environmental office was recognized in April by the Department of Defense as part of the 2013 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards.
Annually, the DOD honors individuals, teams and installations for outstanding achievements, innovative environmental practices and partnerships promoting quality of life and increasing efficiency without compromising mission success.
MCB Camp Butler was recognized for its programs, which enhanced environmental quality while sustaining the Marine Corps’ ability to effectively train and maintain force readiness.
MCB Camp Butler’s environmental program proactively supported mission readiness by providing the most extensive environmental training program within the Asia-Pacific region for DOD installations, and completing plans and environmental analyses using in-house staff to save time and money, as well as effectively managing land entrusted to the Marine Corps, according to the award press release by the DOD.
The environmental program was evaluated by the following criteria: how well bases managed their programs and how successfully the program reduced the sources of waste and harmful emissions, all while maintaining and improving mission and environmental safety.
“Using in-house staff and resources, MCB Camp Butler’s program maintains and fully implements an environmental management system that has exceeded DOD requirements,” said Joseph Vogel, the environmental director of MCB Camp Butler. “By creating a regional EMS that incorporates installations in Japan, Republic of Korea, and the U.S., our management review board allows for sharing challenges and successes, and for visibility of EMS objectives throughout the region.”
Throughout the past two years, MCB Camp Butler has achieved numerous environmental successes. One is the capture of cane toads, which are one of the world’s most invasive species because of its poisonous glands and overwhelming appetite.
By the end of 2011, environmental staff and volunteers captured 589 cane toads. After monitoring potential breeding sites, the staff did not find any signs of breeding, indicating the cane toad capture was effective, according to the DOD release.
“We are extremely glad that the capture was successful,” said Vogel. “Many times we do not solve problems like this in time, and it costs even more money if the problem spreads to other bases.”
MCB Camp Butler was also recognized for collecting more than 9 million pounds of recyclables from nearly 700 locations throughout Okinawa in the fiscal years 2011 and 2012, which generated nearly $2 million.
“Recycling plays a big role in the environment,” said Vogel. “This is a great accomplishment.”
The environmental office was also evaluated on how its environmental program effectively facilitated military readiness and mission activities.
“MCB Camp Butler faces many unique environmental challenges due to its many installations and training areas,” said Vogel. “We have several programs in effect to ensure training is still possible. For example, the erosion prevention program helps us effectively maintain various training ranges throughout the region.”
The environmental program not only helps the military, but also helps certify hazardous waste disposal by American and Japanese contractors.
“Our environmental compliance course, part of the comprehensive environmental training and education program, is a mobile, in-house training class offered in both Japanese and English,” said Karen Balabis, EMS coordinator for MCB Camp Butler. “It is aimed at providing training to personnel and their supervisors assigned to duties involving actual, or potential, exposure to hazardous waste.”
Additionally, with restructuring the ECC, the staff assigned to the MCB Camp Butler environmental office integrated online courses to assist in reducing duplicate training classes.
“By incorporating online training into the ECC, we have been able to reduce the amount of in-class time required to achieve certification, thereby increasing the number of courses we offer,” added Vogel. “We also provided Japanese Freon recovery certification and recertification courses for Japanese employees on Okinawa and at the Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji.”
The environmental program will continue to develop and maintain a balance between the Marine Corps and the environment it operates in, according to Vogel.
“It’s a great feeling to be recognized for our program,” said Vogel. “We will continue to do whatever it takes to try and improve the environment throughout MCB Camp Butler and the Asia-Pacific region.”