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News | March 3, 2008

NAVFAC Far East Provides Integral Environmental Support

By Christine Lohr Naval Facilities Engineering Command Far East

Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East's environmental expertise was underscored recently, as three installations the command supports were selected as winners in the fiscal year (FY) 2007 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Environmental Awards competition. 

Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS), Japan won an award in the cultural resources management installation category; Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY), Japan won in the pollution prevention industrial installation category; and Antenor Nestor A. Guzman, U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, won in the natural resources conservation individual or team award category.

Sponsored by the CNO Environmental Readiness Division (N45), the annual CNO Environmental Awards program recognizes Navy people, ships and installations for their exceptional environmental stewardship. The 2007 competition categories included: Natural resources conservation, cultural resources management, environmental quality, pollution prevention, environmental restoration and environmental excellence in weapon system acquisition.

NAVFAC's environmental experts are stationed around the world, supporting Navy commands in environmental compliance, restoration and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. NAVFAC's Facilities Engineering Commands like Far East and their public works departments (PWD) play an integral role in providing this expertise to installation commanders.

For instance, PWD Sasebo, located on Japan's westernmost island of Kyushu, helped CFAS win the N45 Cultural Resources Management Award.

"The reason why our program is strong is we partner with host country professionals to help us understand what has cultural significance," said Thomas Smith, PWD Sasebo environmental program manager. "Sasebo maintains many structures of cultural significance, and we want to continue to document these cultural resources by preserving artifacts and documenting them on a CD." 

Smith and his team also created a walking tour with a bilingual brochure to explain the background of some of the cultural sites, and a history book that outlines the history of Sasebo Naval Station. 

"We are such a small base, so I am surprised we received the award," Smith said. "A lot of people worked hard towards getting it, so I'm very pleased." 

PWD Yokosuka, located south of Tokyo on Japan's better known island of Honshu, significantly contributed to CFAY being named a winner in the pollution prevention industrial installation category.

"I'm very pleased to hear about the award, not only because of all the hard work put forth by the personnel within the environmental division, but by everyone on the installation who worked as a team to make this award possible," said Ron Rossetti, supervisory environmental engineer, PWD Yokosuka. "It took many people, working above and beyond, in achieving an environmental posture that not only ensures environmental compliance but also implements processes and procedures that make the environment friendlier."

Their accomplishments include expanding scrap metal collection points, new call-in services, and improving methods for handling solid waste, among others. 

An individual award went to Antenor Nestor Guzman, a natural resource program manager from PWD Diego Garcia. Guzman implemented several educational and recreational programs to further conservation efforts on the island.

"We submitted one for him alone because he did so much work for Diego Garcia," said Linda Corpus, supervisory environmental engineer. "He is the team's sole expert on natural resources, cultural resources, and other biology-related matters on the island and he has gained an incredible record of accomplishments."

Diego Garcia is the largest atoll of the Chagos Archipelago, a remote island located in the Indian Ocean. It is a British Indian Ocean Territory, a nature reserve and a military base. Turtle conservation and critical habitat protection for endangered species are big concerns on Diego Garcia. 

"I was very surprised by getting the award and it feels really great," Guzman said. "Certainly, this is the biggest achievement in my 11 years of working for the Navy. Keeping the balance between environmental protection and operational mission in a remote location like Diego Garcia is such an enormous challenge." 

Guzman is involved with international sea turtle research, as well as with other endangered and fragile plant species. He coordinates the upkeep of an 18-mile jogging/walking/biking nature trail, recreation sites, and beach clean-ups, and promotes environmental awareness by coordinating Earth Day and sea turtle month activities.

"The exceptional support I get from Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, tenant commands, contractors, islanders and especially public works inspired me to excel on this job," said Guzman.