FORT POLK, La. -- If the Army has its way, Fort Polk - as well as every other Army installation - will be self-sustainable within the next 25 years.

The Army defines sustainability as meeting its current and future mission requirements worldwide, while safeguarding human health, improving quality of life and enhancing the natural environment. That sounds great, but what exactly does it mean for the post's Soldiers, Family members, civilian workers and military retirees'

Noted economist Paul Hawkins offers a simple definition of sustainability: "Leave the world better than you found it, take no more than you need, try not to harm life of the environment, make amends if you do."

To create a sustainable Fort Polk, garrison leadership will develop an Installation Strategic Sustainability Plan. As part of the ISSP process, the garrison hosts a 25-year goal setting workshop in January that will bring together members from the mission (those who drive the mission on Fort Polk), garrison (those responsible for running Fort Polk on a daily basis) and neighboring communities (Leesville, DeRidder) to analyze strategic challenges facing the installation and develop a vision for the future.

Stacy Basham Wagner,A,A an environmental analyst with Fort Polk's Directorate of Public Works' Environmental and Natural Resources Management Division, said sustainability is important to everyone on Fort Polk.

"From a personal standpoint, people want to know what the future is going to hold for them," she said. "Is there going to be clean air, clean water, those type of things' Will there still be polar bears and tigers in the wild' Will we go to national parks that still exist as they are today'"

Wagner said quality of life is an area that must be considered when developing the plan.

"What kind of quality of life are we going to have'" she said. "That means many different things to different people. Will we have safe food to eat and are we going to have chemicals in our bodies that we don't want'"

Sustainability is about all of those things, and what people do now affects the future, Wagner said. "How will we build our homes'" she said. "How will we provide energy for our homes' What kind of cars will we drive' Will we drive cars that get 14 miles a gallon and put carbon emissions into the air or do we drive an electrical vehicle that doesn't put any emissions into the air' Will we work in a building that is energy efficient and uses something like solar energy to power it, versus having to rely on fossil fuels'

"The more natural resources we consume now, the less there are for our children - and for ourselves when we get old."

Wagner said sustainability is important to the Army, especially from an operational standpoint.

"You've got to haul supplies, fuel and water to your base camps," she said. "Every gallon of fuel and every gallon of water you've got to haul in takes trucks and Soldiers to move it and protect it. Those are targets. The less you have to haul in, the safer you are. If the Army can use vehicles that take less fuel, and use generators that are solar powered instead of diesel powered, then you're that much safer and present the enemy with fewer targets."

Stephanie Stephens, a strategic planner with Fort Polk's Plans, Analysis and Integration Office, said sustainability is more realistic than most people think and the Army is "dead serious about it."

"Look at Fort Polk," Stephens said. "Parking lot lights are being powered by solar energy. Some barracks have been converted to solar power and there are even a couple of electric vehicles in use on post. The more we use these, the less money we have to spend on energy consumption and the more we can spend on improving the quality of life for our Soldiers."

Stephens said the move toward sustainability is in its infancy.

"We're working to get charging stations on post so that we can use electric cars more efficiently," she said. "We have bio-diesel on post. We are looking at identifying other areas where we can be more sustainable."

Wagner said the garrison ISSP is one way to reach the Army's 25-year goal of sustainability.

"The ISSP will look at how we can meet the Army's goal to be sustainable," Wagner said. "In 25 years we want to be a net zero energy installation. We want to generate as much energy as we use, either by solar energy, geo-thermal, or something else."

To do that, Wagner said Fort Polk leaders must identify what is in the realm of possibility, and then develop a plan to work towards that. "That's the purpose of an ISSP - to bring in the right people from garrison, units and the local community - to see what we need to do to work together to be a sustainable installation in 25 years."

Stephens said that most of the time, leaders look at five-year plans.

"This is looking at a true long-range plan," she said. "Sustainability is not something that is going to happen over night, and it's not going to be easy. While it's not 'pie in the sky,' it's going to take a lot of work."

The Army views sustainability as strategically imperative, Stephens said.

"It (Army) considers it very important and actually has taken the lead in the federal government in sustainability," she said. "They are ahead of the curve. They are working at how to become sustainable during combat operations. It's not a fad. With the ISSP, we have to think about what is doable and possible. Together, collectively, we can do this."

Stephens said the ISSP would explore many areas.

"We'll look at things like recycling and the products we purchase," she said. "What is what we buy made of' We'll look at things like computers, building materials, local purchase items, anything to conserve."

Wagner said an area that needs improvement is personal conservation practices.
"Back in the old days, your grandmother kept everything, she didn't throw anything away," Wagner said. "There is a conservation ethic that we have lost. We have become a throw-away generation. We need to change that on a societal level."

Another area Fort Polk must address is equality. Wagner explained:

"Americans have a high quality of living, but there are millions of people who don't have clean water or adequate housing," she said. "That situation is not sustainable. A local example would be the housing available on Fort Polk. We are not a sustainable installation based on our housing because there are not enough units to take care of the Soldiers assigned to Fort Polk."

That causes a ripple affect in other areas, Wagner said.

"If you don't have a high quality living standard, you're not going to attract the type of people needed to help you grow," she said. "That further degrades the quality of services available. We want all of the quality of life services on Fort Polk that they have in places like Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Bragg, N.C. We want the same level of services and the same quality of life at all installations. We want to provide better job opportunities and attract talented workers.

"That's why this is going to take a 25-year plan. We want a new high school. We can't get that in the next five years, but if we start planning now, maybe we could get it within 25 years. If you don't aspire for these things, you'll never get them."

Wagner said there is a "triple bottom line" that must be adhered to for the Army to reach its sustainability goals. "Mission, environment and community is the triple bottom line of the Army's sustainability efforts," she said. "The three have to be optimized at the same time. You can't sacrifice one area for the sake of another. It can't be great for the mission, but horrible for the environment."

As for as leading the effort to be sustainable, Wagner said it would not be the first time the Army set the pace. "Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Tom Friedman said the Army is uniquely qualified to spearhead what must be a widespread cultural shift, one on the same scale as the nation's desegregation efforts," she said. "Friedman said, 'When the U.S. Army desegregated, the country really desegregated. And when the Army goes green, the country could really go green.'"

Page last updated Mon October 25th, 2010 at 11:02