CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — It’s getting to be a habit — a very good habit for the environment on Okinawa.

For the third time in a row, the Environmental Affairs Branch of Marine Corps Base Facilities Engineer Division won the Secretary of Defense Environmental Quality (Overseas) Award for its program to preserve and protect the environment on its bases on Okinawa and at Camp Fuji on mainland Japan.

Receiving the award for 2006 — it is presented every two years — took a lot of teamwork in developing innovative solutions to pollution problems on the island, said Sean Barron, director of the division’s engineering and science section.

“The award recognizes the commitment we have to protecting the environment,” Barron said recently in his office on Camp Foster.

In recognizing the Marine program in Japan, the citation singled out the section’s accomplishments in storm-water installation projects, recycling, slope stabilization and its geographic information systems.

The award was an acknowledgment of the section’s environmental management system, which tracks the environmental quality on the bases and allows the section to “fix at the source rather than the end of the problem,” Barron said.

Maj. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin, commander of Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, is a huge supporter of the program, Barron said.

In an environmental policy statement, Krusa-Dossin said “the natural environment is a key asset to the training and support mission” of the bases on Okinawa.

“MCB Butler has established policies to ensure that our mission is accomplished in ways that are consistent with the best interest of the environment, our servicemembers and the local Okinawa community,” she said.

Education, recycling are helpful measures

Sean Barron of the Environmental Affairs Branch of Marine Corps Base Facilities Engineer Division singled out several measures that are making a difference in preserving Okinawa’s environment:

¶ Maintaining the Joint Warfare Training Center in northern Okinawa in its natural condition, which helps protect endangered plant and animal species from encroaching development.

Barron said the number of endangered animals killed on Okinawa highways has increased.

“So, we provide a haven while at the same time we’re providing a natural environment for our Marines to train in.”

¶ Looking at new ways to attack soil erosion.

“We’re doing a lot to combat red-soil runoff and erosion — like soil nailing,” Barron said. “Traditionally, we would shore up landslides with retaining walls, which often would collapse after a few years.”

Now, they reinforce the existing soil by installing threaded steel bars into slopes and cuts, using grouted bars to create stable masses of soil. Barron said the soil-nailing process creates a single block of earth that is better able to hold back runoff and prevent buckling.

¶ Working with the tacit farmers — people allowed to farm small plots on unused land inside the bases — “to try to help them understand our needs, concern for the pesticides they use, and using erosion control measures when planting.”

Having a robust recycling program and bringing new ideas to recycling programs.

“Instead of just dumping washing machines, for example, we’re taking them apart, stripping them of recyclable materials, like the plastic wash tubs,” Barron said.

¶ Bringing the environmental message to schools.

“We try to start with them when they’re young, in school,” Barron said. “We have presentations in the schools, particularly around Earth Day, to deliver the recycling message. We’ve found that the students really get into it and bring that enthusiasm to recycle back to their homes.”

¶ Working with the Okinawa community in beach cleanup projects.

Creating a storm-water project on Camp Foster. Oil sediment separators were installed to prevent pollutants from draining into streams.

— David Allen

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