At the United States Army Reserve's Equipment Concentration Site 124 G, one is hard pressed to find a fuel drum in need of a secondary containment pallet or a Humvee in need of a drip pan. No, not here … not on Jacinto "Jack" Brklich's watch.
Brklich is an Environmental Compliance Officer with the 81st Readiness Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. In his role, Brklich strives to protect our environment and our readiness. And, the word on this exceptional Citizen Soldier is officially out. Fort Jackson recently lauded Brklich with an Outstanding Environmental Performance Award for his efforts.
Dan Thomas, Chief of the Environmental Division at the 81st Readiness Division's Directorate of Public Works, said that quality Environmental Compliance Officers are critical to the Army Reserve's environmental compliance initiatives. Environmental Compliance Officers are responsible for enforcing the federal, state, Army and local regulations that govern a myriad of initiatives, from waste management and recycling programs to spill prevention, control and countermeasures programs. By complying with these regulations, the Army Reserve can secure its resources, enhance its resilience and ensure an unhindered emphasis on mission objectives year after year.
"[Environmental Compliance Officers] allow us to focus our attention and resources on programmatic objectives rather than responses to spills and regulators," Thomas said. "Therefore, we're able to achieve a high level of environmental compliance with fewer resources, [so] leadership [can] focus on Soldier and unit readiness. Civilian Environmental Compliance Officers also assist in improving the compliance status of their military units when they serve in their roles as Soldiers."
Brklich, who is also a Master Sergeant in the Army Reserve, fills his role well. On any given day, Brklich may complete material inventories or conduct inspections of his shop. He may facilitate training or revise Material Safety Data Sheets. He enjoys the dynamics of his job. "I approach each situation with urgency and an open mind," he commented. "Every situation is a challenge and not the same." He said that Fort Jackson is unique because the Installation has a shallow water table, so he and his colleagues must be especially conscious of spill prevention. "Everything we do -- from repairing equipment, to transporting equipment, to storing equipment -- is top priority," Brklich explained. "Our facility has its challenges, but we've gone to great lengths to ensure that personnel are properly trained to handle spill response and have the ability to access the spill response kits that are positioned at all our facilities."
According to Thomas, Brklich consistently strives for excellence above and beyond his daily duties. "[Brklich] is an effective Environmental Compliance Officer because he is knowledgeable and motivated, and he brings his leadership and interpersonal skills to the task," Thomas remarked. "His ongoing military service combined with his civilian job at the Equipment Concentration Site makes him even better because [he can] transfer [his] skills and abilities across organizations."
"He demonstrates a commitment to continual improvement and life-long learning in
both realms," said Thomas. "Having an Environmental Compliance Officer as effective as Brklich benefits the Command and the Army Reserve. The 81st Readiness Division and his Army Reserve unit can both be proud to have such an employee."
While he appreciates the accolades, Brklich is always humble and stresses a collective approach to environmental compliance. He understands that a team is "only as strong as its weakest link," so he ensures that his colleagues are well-trained and well-educated, and he fosters a culture of collaboration and cohesion in his shop.
"I personally like to make sure that all of my co-workers know, understand and abide by the regulations and Standard Operating Procedures that are in place at my office," he said. "If everyone is on the same page with all the rules and regulations, then [we are] more likely to avoid issues in the future and will know how to respond in certain circumstances. Team development is vital here so that we, as a whole, work together. I don't think that we could have a healthy environment if we didn't take the time to help each other out."
Brklich's teammates are no strangers to honors, either. Their site has received two Shop Safety Awards in the three years that Brklich has served as Environmental Compliance Officer.
For Brklich, the benefits of environmental compliance reach beyond the fence lines of Fort Jackson and have enduring impacts on the Army. "I believe that if we don't safeguard our environment and training sites, we have failed as leaders," he said. "We have failed the Army as managers and ambassadors to our community. We must place the mission first but be good stewards and examples to our community and the United States."
Jacinto Brklich is a model Environmental Compliance Office and a true Soldier for sustainability. With Brklich and his colleagues on the front lines of its environmental quality program, the Army Reserve will continue to lead the Department of Defense in environmental protection, conserve its critical natural assets and maintain its mission resilience for generations to come.