JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Building resilient installations was the theme of an Air Force Civil Engineer Center workshop that brought together environmental, public affairs and other base professionals August 13 to 15 in San Antonio.
More than 400 military and civilians were on-hand at the 2019 Air Force Environmental Workshop to focus on the role of environmental restoration and protection in ensuring installations are mission ready. Hosted by AFCEC’s Environmental Management Directorate, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC), the workshop focused on enabling the Air Force environmental mission of building resilient installations through environmental stewardship.
“We’re here to enable the Warfighter, and to be successful we need to ensure our environmental teams at the installations are well-equipped and doing a good job at the bases,” said Jeff Domm, director of AFCEC’s Environmental Management Directorate.
Domm said this workshop is imperative in bringing the Air Force’s environmental experts together to learn, form relationships and continue improving the program for future generations.
AFCEC, headquartered at JBSA-Lackland in San Antonio with AFIMSC, manages and executes the Air Force’s Environmental Program with Installation Support Sections and Remedial Program Managers spread across the globe and geographically aligned to provide consistent, superior environmental support to the bases. This niche network of environmental experts provide restoration, compliance, sustainability and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) support and technical assistance to Air Force installations, major commands and other customers.
Attendees discussed a variety of environmental and installation programs, including program prioritization and strategy, natural and cultural resources, tribal relations, regulatory compliance, legislative engagement, budget and manpower overview, risk communication and more.
Allen Sohn, an environmental scientist at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, said he gained valuable perspective and information from listening to other bases’ successes and challenges.
“It’s tremendously helpful for us at the bases to meet the environmental subject matter experts and form open lines of communication with our counterparts at AFCEC,” Sohn said.
Another inventive feature of this year’s workshop was a public affairs track that brought together approximately 50 Air Force public affairs specialists from across the enterprise to join the environmental training and participate in an entire day focused on environmental public affairs.
Spearheaded by AFIMSC Public Affairs, this collaborative training opportunity enabled communications professionals to join forces and learn instrumental skills on community engagement, career field training, best practices for communicating complex, technical environmental issues to the public and the importance of transparent and timely communication regarding environmental issues and emerging contaminants.
“It’s these kinds of events that help us learn where we need to improve and how we can best help one another,” said Dana Lineback, chief of community relations at Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.
Lineback said she appreciates how this event brought both environmental and public affairs professionals together to exchange knowledge and get back to the basics.
Otis Hicks, director for environmental policy and programs with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Installations and Safety, attended the workshop and stressed how significant it is to bring the different levels of the environmental program together. From headquarters Air Force, AFCEC and AFIMSC to the execution arms at the bases, it’s a chance for everyone to get a consolidated view of the program, he said.
“Having our legal and public affairs folks participate and then having the interaction of the various specialties that we have within the environmental world enables us to have that cohesion of commentary and knowledge to better address our challenges,” Hicks said. “The fundamentals of this initiative and workshop is to reiterate the importance the environmental program has on the Air Force’s mission to fly, fight and win.”