CAMP KOŚCIUSZKO, Poland – U.S. soldiers received a first-of-its-kind award from U.S. Army Europe and Africa for implementing a strong Baltic region environmental program Nov. 2, 2023, in Poznan, Poland.
Soldiers from the 201st Regional Support Group, Directorate of Public Works have been ensuring environmental protection is maintained at U.S. Army sites across NATO’s eastern flank, including sites in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, but they will soon redeploy, leaving the 198th Regional Support Group to take up the responsibility.
“The environmental piece of the mission is important because this is not our land,” said Capt. Devin Lassetter from the 201st RSG DPW. “It’s about respecting the host nation, host nation laws, host nation compliance and just being a good steward of what we’ve been given.”
Lassetter said his team could not be successful without guidance from the USAEUR-AF. He said that Mr. Fabian Kahiamoe, an environmental protection specialist, and Mr. Mike Tillema, the environmental chief, were always available via phone call or text message.
“We’re not there just to stop projects and stop work,” said Tillema. “We’re there to help and provide resources and guidance for what to do if there’s a spill or something, so we can keep environmental protection standards and maintain those host nation relationships we’ve built.”
Tillema decided it was time to recognize soldiers in the field who are enforcing and enacting the policies his team writes. The USAEUR-AF environmental program isn’t new, but it is growing. He awarded challenge coins and letters of appreciation for this first awards ceremony, but has plans to develop something more unique for future awardees.
“Currently, it’s the letters of appreciation and coins, but it will morph into specific environmental coins or awards certificates for future go-arounds,” said Tillema.
Tillema said that communication and a robust training program are the two most important factors for a successful environmental program, and the 201st RSG DPW team has been expertly building both.
Lassetter said his team listens to what units need at each forward operating site and keeps consistent, positive communications between all of them, which yields successful results. For example, if a unit needs spill kits, and another unit has extra, his team can facilitate a swift and effective trade.
The 201st RSG DPW team has spent the last week traveling to sites all over the region with their replacements from the 198th RSG to ensure proper training and familiarization with U.S. units and host nation contacts.
“We’ve created relationships with our host nation contractors that pick up our hazardous waste and stuff, so if our mayor’s cells are having any trouble working with host nations, we can be an additional asset to help them,” said Lassetter. “It’s been successful so far in improving the overall environmental posture of all the FOSs throughout our region.”
The 201st RSG DPW team’s premier success was implementing an inspection program.
Tillema described the inspection program as extremely prompt and consistent. The program has been integral to getting funding to help units in the field get crucial equipment because post-inspection reports include detailed issues and solutions. For example, the reports directly resulted in all sites getting proper containment structures for HAZMAT.
Above all, Lassetter credits his non-commissioned officers with the unit’s environmental protection success.
“It’s good to see no complacency in the NCOs and the efforts they’ve made,” said Lassetter. “They are truly being the backbone of the Army by not allowing complacency. Especially Sgt. 1st Class Ruffin, the lead environmental officer for all his NCOs throughout the Baltics.”
Sgt. 1st Class Gerod Ruffin said he feels blessed to have the opportunity to work on his team’s mission during the program’s revamp; he’s proud of their work.
“For me personally and professionally, it has been very rewarding and challenging in a positive way,” said Ruffin. “I always ask questions about how host nations conduct their practices along with what things work and how it affects their day-to-day activities environmentally.”
Ruffin asserted that he and his team take pride in environmental safety, shouldering the responsibility to bring units up to the required standards.
“Our effort is to try to assure, deter and reinforce,” said Lassetter, referring to the U.S. Army’s overall mission in central Europe.
“Part of that assurance is to assure the host nations that we have environmental considerations under control,” Lassetter said. “We just want to make sure that we maintain good relationships with all the people that we meet through the entire Baltic region.”
|Date Posted:||11.03.2023 05:00|