Itâ€™s not an uncommon sight to see people in regular clothes with neon vests, hard hats, goggles and work gloves carrying a trash picker-upper in one hand and a plastic bag in the other while removing litter from the side of a highway; some have even been spotted wearing bright orange jumpsuits.
However, if you were a motorist driving southbound on Interstate 215, near March Air Reserve Base, Feb. 24, you would have been in for a pleasant surprise as 20 members of the 912th Air Refueling Squadron, dressed in ABUs and flight suits, banded together to pick up litter alongside the highway.
No direct order was given, nor punishment issued; they were there because they wanted to be. Simply put, the members wanted to help beautify the highway outside the base.
It all started one morning when Capt. Rick Adams, pilot, 912th ARS, was driving to work and noticed a bunch of trash gathered up against the fence near the museum.
â€œI thought, we should go clean up that area because it looks really bad and it makes the base look bad,â€ said Adams.
When he got to work he asked a co-worker if he was in the mood to do a good deed and volunteer to pick up trash alongside the perimeter fence. After a minute or so, he recanted his question thinking it might be against a local mandate. He thought there would probably be a lot of red tape to go through for permission, but then an idea dawned on him.
â€œI thought, maybe we could officially adopt the highway; that way weâ€™re legal,â€ said Adams.
Adams and Capt. Scott Morrison, pilot, 912th ARS, ran the idea by their commander, Lt. Col. Brice Middleton, who was just as enthusiastic about the idea and encouraged them to pursue their endeavor.
â€œI thought it was a great idea and a great way to support the community and help the environment,â€ said Middleton.
Adams contacted Caltrans, managers of the Adopt-A-Highway program, requested an area close to the base and filled out all the required paperwork. The process took about two months and after everything was completed, the 912th was given a two mile stretch southbound, starting a little north of the Cactus off-ramp, ending just past the Van Buren off-ramp. Driverâ€™s getting off on Cactus will see the â€˜Adopt-A-Highwayâ€™ 912th Air Refueling Squadron sign that was posted as a courtesy by Caltrans.
Caltrans provided safety equipment, trash bags and safety training to Adams and Morrison in order to prepare them for the duration of the job and hazards they might encounter. The training also prepared them to teach volunteers how to remain safe while removing trash from the side of a busy interstate.
Col. Mary Aldrian, vice commander, 452 AMW attended the first safety training session to show her support for the squadron and volunteers.
â€œI think itâ€™s wonderful what the squadron is doing,â€ she said.
The first litter removal lasted more than two hours and resulted in a pile of 20 bags, plus pieces of wood and tires.
â€œI will definitely do it again,â€ said volunteer, Staff Sgt. Michael Tate, unit training manager, 912th ARS. â€œAnything to make our highways beautiful.â€
The 912th has owned the two-mile stretch since February and will be responsible for the area for five years. They conducted their second litter removal in March and their third is scheduled for the end of April. They will continue to clean up the roadway at least once a month.
â€œIâ€™m pleased with how things turned out our first time out,â€ said Adams. â€œThis was a perfect thing for our squadron to do, to get out there and help the community, help the environment and make the area outside the base look nicer.â€