MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — This northern Japan base’s environmental programs are in the running for Defense Department recognition after notching two Air Force awards.

The 35th Civil Engineer Squadron’s environmental flight won the prestigious General Thomas D. White Environmental Quality Award in the overseas category. The honor goes to an Air Force base outside the United States demonstrating exceptional environmental achievement. Consideration is given to host country environmental standards and partnerships between the installation and local community, officials said.

“Misawa is a smaller installation in the U.S. Air Force, but we’re doing a lot of innovative things here and having a positive effect on the environment,” said Brent Hefty, 35th CES environmental flight chief.

Also winning an individual award was Takeshi Ukon, natural and cultural resources program manager for 35th CES environmental flight. Ukon earned the General Thomas D. White Natural and Cultural Resources Management Award given for individual or team excellence.

Ukon was recognized in part for his cooperation with the Misawa Board of Education in managing and restoring thousands of prehistoric artifacts recovered from excavation sites on base preceding construction projects, according to Hefty.

Thirty-fifth CES officials said it takes a team effort to enhance and protect the environment at Misawa.

“The Air Force, Navy, Japanese civilians, all of us work together to make” the environment better, said Lt. Col. David Maharrey, 35th CES commander. “We’re part of the bigger community; part of the world. We’re trying to do our part.”

Some examples of the work the environmental flight was recognized for between Oct. 1, 2002, and Sept. 30, 2004, include:

¶ Identification and elimination of lead-based paint hazards to children:

Hefty said the 35th CES surveyed child-occupied facilities on base to determine the presence of lead-contaminated paint. Exposure to lead can cause a range of health problems in children. Lead-based paint was found in Zeamer Child Development Center and on some playground equipment at one of the schools, Hefty said. “Immediate action was taken to remove the lead-based paint and remove the hazard,” he said.

¶ A $2.4 million project to repair 79 underground petroleum storage tanks to be in compliance with new Japanese environmental standards:

Single-wall tanks were reinforced with a second tank, and a monitoring system between the two walls was installed to check for liquid and vapor leaks, Hefty said. Double-wall piping also was built into the tanks “so we have some redundancy to protect the environment,” he said.

¶ The base replaced an incinerator at Misawa Security Operations Center with 11 shredders that turn paper into a powder, saving money and eliminating dioxin emission.

Misawa’s 35th CES environmental flight and Ukon will now compete at the DOD level against environmental award winners from other military departments.

Serving as the fourth Air Force chief of staff in 1957, White set the Air Force on a path to support DOD environmental programs, according to DOD.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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