By Christine Fox and Corina Habermann, USAG Bavaria Environmental Division
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The U.S. Army recently announced U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria as winner of Environmental Quality in the overseas category for their annual Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards.
USAG Bavaria will now compete with the Navy, Air Force and Marines as the Army’s representative in the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards program.
The garrison’s environmental program is multifaceted and oversees a range of environmental aspects such as managing hazardous substances, remediating contaminated sites, improving energy efficiency, recycling, conserving wildlife and habitats, monitoring water quality and protecting the area’s cultural resources. Supporting the military readiness mission and its ever evolving needs is the environmental program’s top priority, while environmental stewardship is its essence.
For the past few years, USAG Bavaria has seen an increase in visiting rotational units, with approximately 180,000 troops from more than 35 countries coming each year to one of the four military communities to train. This places high demands on training lands and military infrastructure.
In a combined team effort with the Utilities Branch of the Directorate of Public Works, 7th Army Training Command, host nation authorities and other organizations, the Environmental Division’s staff has successfully handled the garrison’s increase in rotational forces, as well as continued to provide quality support to permanent units while complying with environmental laws.
It is these efforts that earned them the Environmental Quality category award, which recognizes the excellence of an environmental program as a whole.
Cooperation and collaboration with all stakeholders, a lot of hard work from a dedicated and highly motivated team of professionals, and a well-balanced and mission-oriented environmental program is what Manfred Rieck, chief, Environmental Division, attributes to their success.
What makes this program most effective is the full garrison leadership support it receives and everyone’s continual focus on the military mission, he said.
The program’s committed relationship with tenant and rotational units is one of many reasons it was recognized with the award.
Environmental staff assist military trainers in evaluating training scenarios to avoid negative environmental impacts, like soil and groundwater contamination due to hazardous materials spills. Providing quality environmental training, offering technical assistance, and establishing a hazardous waste disposal system make environmental protection easier for Soldiers. The program has installed numerous strategically-placed refueling sites, as well as hazardous waste storage and disposal facilities, to make safety and compliance more convenient.
In addition to offering training and guidance to military personnel, the garrison — in cooperation with 7th ATC and other DPW divisions — effectively manages military lands to support a realistic training environment in compliance with laws, while also allowing more than 800 legally-protected flora and fauna species to flourish within the garrison’s boundaries.
“In recent years, the garrison has experienced the re-emergence of highly threatened species that have been absent since the 19th century,” said Rieck. “The white-tailed eagle, European lynx, fish otter, wild cat and greater horseshoe bat are just a few of the species that are now thriving. Currently, we are excited about European wolf sightings in the Grafenwoehr Training Area. It was first spotted in September 2016 by a wildlife camera and has been breaking news in German media.”
Another boost for wildlife are the numerous habitat restoration or enhancement projects that have been completed throughout USAG Bavaria.
In the Hohenfels Training Area, a European Union-funded project is currently ongoing to stabilize roosting habitats for the greater horseshoe bat, the only reproducing population in Germany. The environmental program’s coordination with the Federal Forest Service; the county and district nature protection authorities; and a local nature protection non-governmental organization has ensured the success of this project.
“The garrison’s environmental program is thriving because of its trustful partnerships with host nation authorities. We have earned and maintained their trust by sharing our expertise in managing military training lands while conserving nature and protecting endangered species,” said Rieck. “In turn, our host nation has supported the garrison by providing permits to conduct necessary military operation activities and, by monitoring soil, improve surface water and groundwater quality.”
The garrison’s environmental outreach program has built partnerships not only with local authorities and organizations but also international groups.
Visiting military forces from foreign countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Israel and France, and students from universities in Prague and Australia have come to USAG Bavaria to learn about environmental projects and how the program is managed. In exchange, Manfred Rieck and his staff were invited to give presentations at workshops and conferences in France and Estonia.
This sharing of information and support helps other organizations all over the world to flourish in their protection of the environment, without compromising military operations.
Another highlight of the environmental program is its focus on modernizing energy infrastructure and improving energy efficiency within the garrison.
In Hohenfels, the recent introduction of a heat and power cogeneration system at Camp Nainhof has reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions by 1,300 tons, saving approximately $900,000 in overall energy costs each year. This is just one of many upgrades that have decreased the garrison’s energy footprint.
“I have always known we have the best environmental program in USAREUR,” said Col. Lance Varney, garrison commander, USAG Bavaria. “This award was hard-won and is greatly deserved by the folks at the Environmental Division. I take tremendous pride in their efforts and sound environmental stewardship.”
The USAG Bavaria environmental program will continue to rise above challenges, Rieck said, upholding the motto: “Protect the environment, support the mission, sustain the future.”