MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS -- “We conduct a lot of training out here,” said Brian Henen, ecologist, NREA. “We have 40 to 50 thousand Marines here every year and that impacts the environment over time. Ultimately what we’re trying to do is protect the environment that not only meets the legal requirements for protecting resources but also allows the Marines to work in an environment that is sustained over time.”
NREA is split into many divisions, each one playing an important role in the sustainment and improvement of the installation. Collectively, NREA implements and manages natural resources and environmental programs for the installation. Some of those programs include: The Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, which was put in place to guide surveys and conservation of the ecosystem. The Combat Center’s Biological Opinions were negotiated to cover base wide training, construction programs, the base expansion and the Desert Tortoise Headstart Program, aimed at contributing to the recovery of the desert tortoise species. Through community outreach, the Combat Center has continued to contribute to natural resources education and conservation programs aboard the installation and throughout the region.
“As a whole, each individual section plays its own role, but together we create the sustainability that’s necessary to not only win the award, but to keep winning the award year after year,” said Norman Troy, unexploded ordnance supervisor, Range Sustainment Branch, NREA. “As far as the programs we have in place, we don’t just look at this year, we look at 10 years from now.”
This is the first year NREA has won both the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense awards for Sustainability. Once the Secretary of the Navy Award is bestowed upon an installation in the Marine Corps, the Secretary of Defense then chooses the most sustainable base from all five branches, and awards the title of ‘most sustainable’ making the Combat Center, and thus the Marine Corps, the most environmentally conscience non-industrial installation with regard to sustainability within the Department of Defense.
“We come here every day with the idea that we are trying to protect the resources, but in a way that still allows the Marines to train,” Henen said. “We have range cleanup teams, and personnel scoping out the best locations for training exercises. The installation is a large community and we’re working with that community to keep the base going.”
From policing the training areas for anything that could be harmful to the environment to providing educational programs for its residents, NREA ensures they preserve the environment and in turn contribute to the training mission of the installation so many call home.
“It’s nice for the recognition to happen because we’re doing a job that nobody really knows is happening,” Troy said. “Being recognized helps improve the customer service and the day-to-day operations. When people realize what we’re doing and why we’re trying to accomplish the mission, everything runs smoother.”