Environmental training helps Marines maintain high standards

31 May 2012 | Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson

It’s easy to forget, but it can be a Marines best friend and sometimes it needs protecting too. That is why Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune takes measures to ensure the maintenance and preservation of the land that comprises the base, itself a large reserve of natural resources and plethora of wildlife.

The base possesses its own environmental departments dedicated to meeting and upholding the standards set forth by military and government regulations. However, it also relies upon the Marines that use its facilities to guard the integrity and safety of the area’s environment. The Comprehensive Environmental Training and Education Program is one of the important arrows in the base’s green quiver, training personnel to protect the base’s environmental wealth.

“There are a lot of requirements that you have to meet, and the education program lets Marines know what those requirements are,” said Ken Humes, the head of the environmental assessment section aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. “Marines are seeing the green side of things now. When you realize that you are far from supply routes, you need to become pretty proficient at being self sufficient.”

But green isn’t just for overseas operations. An environmentally conscious attitude is actually a way to expand the sustainability and scope of the training aboard MCB Camp Lejeune as well, noted Dave Adkins, an environmental engineer and base CETEP coordinator. The education program is designed to help Marine units maintain safe and efficient environmental programs while meeting regulations and minimizing the impact on mission readiness.

The week long program draws personnel from various commands and trains them in areas pertinent to environmental protection, such as hazardous material, regulations and overall environmental awareness. Armed with the courses knowledge, the participants return and help units meet their specific needs.

The combined efforts of educational programs and the base’s environmental departments have helped many Marines protect the environment and preserve and expand their training areas at the same time. This included incidents where the expansion of a training area would have otherwise encroached upon endangered species.

“We were able use land we had available for a purpose that was very meaningful to our Marines and still protect the environment,” said Adkins. “That is something that Marines might not have always been involved in because they are war fighters. We were able to support them in that way, so Marines and the environment go hand in hand.”

With more than 1,000 personnel trained in CETEP classes each year and numerous educational visits to units, the environmental reach of the program stretches to all areas of the base.

What is more, the combined efforts of CETEP and other environmental departments have proven key in other areas as well. As Marines put boots to dirt on the base’s ranges and training areas, they are reminded of the next generation of Marines who will follow.

“The Marines understand now that when they leave a range, they don’t want to burry stuff or dump (anything) in the ground,” said Humes. “They take what they bring with them out and then the next unit that comes in has a clean, well functioning range. There’s no storm water erosion control that washes the range out, there’s no solid waste and there’s no hazardous materials. Marines can lay on the ground and fire their weapons without fear of being contaminated.”

It’s about continuing the mission and guarding the health of the base’s key resources: Marines and their training areas. If an area is contaminated, the marines are deprived of that resource, said Adkins.

At the end of the day, CETEP and other preservation efforts on base do more than make environmental sense. They make dollars and sense. MCB Camp Lejeune has spent more than $120 million cleaning up contaminated sites.

“The clean-up funds for contaminated sites come from our appropriated funds,” said Adkins. “When we’re spending dollars to clean up contaminated sites, we’re not spending dollars to train and support our Marines.”

Ranges and training grounds are some of the most important sites aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. They make it possible for Marines to hone their war fighter’s tool chest.

“We’re not the guys with a badge and a gun,” said Adkins. “We’re here to help you find a way to adapt what we do as a military to the environmental constraints that we can’t change. Marines have been able to expand their opportunities to train and have more facilities available to them with less overall impact to the environment.”