Louisiana is known as the “Bayou State” for its marshy waterways and overall unique environment. The Louisiana Army National Guard (LAARNG) has shown dedication to the environment through its conservation efforts and has been recognized for these outstanding efforts with the 2020 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Sustainability.
During the past two years, the LAARNG successfully implemented a new model for promoting compliance which has improved environmental quality throughout the state.
The LAARNG’s Compliance Team, composed of three regional coordinators and three specialized environmental managers, has created enhanced collaboration between leadership and ground operations. The LAARNG believes making efforts more collaborative is essential to accomplishing positive operational change. This effort has been implemented across dozens of readiness centers, 16 maintenance facilities, and three major training sites, enhancing communication channels across the state.
Increasing communication, clearly defining roles and relationships, establishing new protocols, and improving plans have all contributed to the success of the mission. In fact, the Compliance Team has achieved unmatched success in compliance for the state, completing the best environmental performance assessment inspection in LAARNG history.
Understanding roles and responsibilities has contributed to their success. One role which was more clearly defined was the Regional Coordinator (RC). This role was carefully laid out to decrease ambiguity of the position. An RC model was created with a comprehensive protocol laying out weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual responsibilities for the RCs.
These responsibilities are outlined in the revised Environmental Regional Coordinator Playbook, which provides an overview of all aspects of compliance (i.e., inspections, material handling, permit compliance, etc.). This guidance document also contains guidelines for relationships with unit Environmental Compliance Officers and other helpful material, such as comprehensive IPAS inspection checklists customized to the site’s needs.
“The groundwork our team has put forth has helped us to not only respond to compliance issues, but also to anticipate and prevent them from happening,” said Capt. Jeremy Futrell (EPM). “We strive for both preparation and prevention.”
This past year, the team successfully demonstrated their strides toward prevention when they identified and avoided a potential leak risk involving legacy display equipment. They subsequently ensured that this issue was identified and systematically addressed throughout the state.
Aligning with their goal of cost effectiveness, the team’s efforts have helped reduced costs for the LAARNG. Prevention of compliance issues is less expensive than the treatment of them.
The Compliance Team is actively involved with compliance coordination in and outside of the LAARNG. This integration allows the team to be fully embedded within the environmental decision-making processes and maximizes their input.
“Our team is composed of extremely hard-working and knowledgeable individuals who are collectively conserving the environment in our great state,” said Col. Jason Mahfouz (CFMO). “Our new model promotes more integrated communications and truly allows our voice to be heard.”
Other responsibilities of the team include fully implementing the LAARNG’s compliance-related management plans and ensuring Soldiers and staff fully understand and follow these plans. Some of the plans they are responsible for include Hazardous Waste, Solid Waste, Stormwater, and Waste Prevention management plans, environmental management system (eMS), and the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures plans)
The team has laid out comprehensive groundwork for operations to ensure sustainability. RCs, in addition to providing technical assistance, conduct IPAS/EPAS inspections on all the sites in their regions on a schedule that reflects potential compliance risk and operational priority. The number of sites range between 20 and 25 facilities.
The team always aims for the prevention of incidents. However, if an incident does occur, they respond quickly to the issue to identify and systematically address it throughout the state.
The Environmental Quality Control Committee (EQCC) identified hazardous waste reduction as a significant goal. Therefore, during the past two years, the team has achieved virtual elimination of waste such as used oil and antifreeze products.
If an RC encounters an issue that they are not empowered to address, they consult the team’s managers and ultimately the EQCC. This helps create a system of top-down guidance.
At Camp Minden, the team helps manage a Superfund site with an extensive requirement for water sampling. RC is in charge of various tasks, such as maintaining compliance discharge permits on the site, collecting water samples, reviewing lab reports, and reporting information to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.
The framework created by the LAARNG’s Compliance Team has helped create a more uniformed effort, creating positive impacts in the present and ensuring correct procedures in the future.