Air Force

April 20, 2012

Air Force observes Earth Day

Team March to help environment



As millions of people around the world observe Earth Day on April 22, the Air Force is challenging every member of the Air Force family to do his or her part to conserve natural resources, minimize waste and prevent pollution.

“I challenge all Airmen to think about pollution prevention in new ways,” said Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff. “We all need to understand that we can make a difference in managing waste so we can find cleaner, more cost effective ways of accomplishing our mission.”

Like March Air Reserve Base, Calif., installations across the force are taking aggressive strides to enhance sustainability and cut costs.

One endeavor the Air Force has undertaken to improve sustainability is by modifying current processes to incorporate innovative, environmentally friendly technologies.

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is leading efforts to reduce the pollutants and heavy metals currently involved in stripping paint from Air Force aircraft. Tom Naguy, senior program manager for environment and energy in the AFRL’s materials and manufacturing directorate, is overseeing the project. The robotic “de-painting” system uses a laser as an effective and environmentally safe alternative to existing processes.

Strategic reuse of products and materials, where appropriate, is another way the Air Force is slashing costs and controlling its waste stream.

Hill AFB, Utah, is saving money and simultaneously reducing hazardous waste by implementing solvent filtration systems which allow multiple re-use of cleaning solvents used for aircraft parts, said Guy Whalen, environmental representative for the Commodities Maintenance Group there.

The Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing in Alabama successfully conserved energy by recovering all of its contaminated JP-8 fuel for use in aircraft ground equipment, said Lt. Col. Elmer Norvell, base civil engineer there.

March successfully reclaims fuel during the routine maintenance of the base industrial wastewater treatment systems. The reclaimed fuel is used offsite to augment industrial processes saving our natural resources and saving funds normally used to pay for disposal.

Even seemingly small changes can have large repercussions.

Implementation of a moving box exchange service at Fairchild AFB, Wash., resulted in the reuse of six tons of moving boxes and a savings of $5,000 for base personnel.

“I call upon every Airman to re-think how we approach waste in the Air Force,” said Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics. “As the Air Force becomes leaner, we need to reduce the burden of waste disposal costs that impact our budget. Ask yourself what you can do to be a little greener and leaner in your workplace.”

Substituting nonhazardous and environmentally friendly materials for hazardous ones is another way the service is going green. Such product replacements not only create a healthier environment for Airmen, but also reduce the need for hazardous material disposal.

For example, a conversion from steel break assemblies to carbon brake assemblies at Fairchild AFB has led to a reduction in hazardous waste.
According to Senior Airman Kera Tracy, aircraft hydraulics system journeyman from the 92d Maintenance Squadron at Fairchild, the pucks that help make up the brakes are made up of many metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper, zinc and selenium. Some of these metals are very hazardous and can cause major health concerns in addition to environmental contamination.

“We discovered the impact the brake repair had on the environment when our mop water was tested and found to have high levels of cadmium,” Tracy said. “Our mop water then became hazardous waste and a program was made in the shop for proper disposal.”

Between 2005 and 2006, the base began the process to convert to carbon brake assemblies and now all of their KC-135s are equipped with the new brakes, Tracy said.

Keeping our aircraft mission ready requires a solid maintenance program and at March ARB that means maintaining a high standard. A good example of this is the recent transition of parts washing units that are more efficient and use environmentally safe cleaning solvents. These new machines provide exceptional cleaning results while reducing risk to employees and the environment.

Recycling is another means of preventing pollution and diverting waste.

Like many installations, Eglin is home to a robust recycling center. Over the last fiscal year, the facility compacted enough recyclable material to fill 325 school buses, reducing waste disposal costs by as much as $500,000 and diverting over 17,000 tons from landfills.

In addition to traditional recycling efforts, recycling has become the standard in Air Force construction and demolition projects.

During a recent runway project at Fairchild AFB, concrete, asphalt and scrap metal were reused and recycled. To date, the project has resulted in the recycling of 60,000 tons of concrete and approximately 44,000 tons of asphalt on site. An additional 87,000 tons of concrete and 63,000 tons of asphalt were recycled off base, said Wayne Musselwhite, 92d Civil Engineering Squadron chief of construction management.

At March, a robust Qualified Recycling Program provides base personnel the opportunity to recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and more. The base and the program have benefited from the recycling of thousands of tons of material diverted from landfill resulting in funds used to sustain recycling efforts.

To learn more about recycling at March contact Carroll Hale at 951-655-5852 or

Construction projects are also incorporating several energy-saving features, with many of the buildings qualifying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

“Civil engineers are building sustainable installations every day,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers, the Air Force civil engineer. “We are focusing on being smarter, faster, better and cheaper; we are reducing waste, conserving energy, and building leaner, more sustainable facilities because we know these efforts not only support the environment, but also save money and improve our mission capabilities.”

To help emphasize the importance of individual efforts, the Air Force is promoting a “Blue Acts of Green” social media page. March Airmen and their families are encouraged to visit the site at to commit to perform an act of “green” at home or work to benefit the environment and prevent pollution.

“We must make a habit of being green, making the most of all the resources we use and looking for opportunities to conserve today for a secure tomorrow,” said Erin Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force and the Air Force senior sustainability officer.

(Carroll Hale, 452d MSG/CEV, contributed to this story.)

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